22 May 2018

Canada’s Commitment to IP

Canada’s government has pledged to invest CA $85.3 million (US $66.6 million) over the next five years to help businesses, creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators better understand, protect, and access their IP. The investment is part of a new Intellectual Property Strategy, which was released by Navdeep Singh Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in April.

Mark Schaan, Director General, Marketplace Framework Policy Branch, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and his team of policymakers have spent the past two-and-a-half years getting the Strategy ready, and, he says, it shows that the government is more committed than ever to taking IP seriously.

“It’s the first of its kind for Canada: the Canadian government is committed to reinforcing the importance of IP in the modern economy, ensuring the IP regime is balanced and supportive of our goals,” says Mr. Schaan.

The Strategy is divided into three pillars: IP awareness, education, and advice; strategic IP tools for growth (including expedited dispute resolution); and IP legislation.

It covers a range of issues across all forms of IP, including some important legislative changes in the trademark field. However, just like any legislation, these amendments still require approval from lawmakers.

Mr. Schaan explains that the main reforms to trademarks include new opposition and invalidation grounds concerning bad-faith use. In addition, trademarks are required to be used within three years of registration in order to enforce them. After three years, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office will be able to remove marks from the register based on lack of use.


Four years ago, amendments to Canada’s Trade-marks Act, which will allow Canada to join the Madrid Protocol and the Singapore Treaty, removed an administrative requirement stipulating that parties must provide a written “declaration” of use before they can register a trademark. These amendments are expected to come into force sometime next year. Canada’s IP Strategy provides additional measures to ensure that the trademark register does not end up being cluttered by marks that are not being used properly—a practice sometimes known as “trademark squatting.”

“The way we are dealing with this issue of trademark cluttering and squatting is relatively novel in the international space,” says Mr. Schaan.

“I’m not aware, from an international benchmarking position, of others who have looked at it in this way. There are other mechanisms, such as the U.S. domestic application system, that require use and submission of samples, but in terms of being able to take trademarks off the roll and provide tools to declutter, this is relatively novel.”

Mr. Schaan adds that the reforms provide two clear benefits for trademark owners, the first being a “well-curated and manicured trademark registry which improves the value and efficacy for those rightfully holding trademarks and who are not looking to exploit the system.” Quite simply, “the value of a Canadian trademark goes up,” he says.

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