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Russia and Canada – two countries failed by their patent systems?

Source: Grill IP patents news

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Russia’s patent system is notorious. It barely works; in fact, if it does anything at all, it makes the process of patenting an innovation more difficult. Why? Because in Russia – and only in Russia – patents don’t earn the inventor any money. That’s why many of the country’s innovators file their patent applications abroad. However, as it turns out, Russia is not the only country with such a problem. Canada is arguably facing a very similar situation. And while it may be difficult to get to the bottom of Russia’s problems, it is much easier to identify the culprit in Canada – not least because of the country’s much more developed business culture and higher transparency.

For years, Canada has seen the number of its patent application fall; correspondingly, fewer and fewer patents are being issued. In the global rankings, Canada can now be found somewhere between Poland and Taiwan – not anywhere near where one would expect to find a member of the G7 club of leading industrial nations. It’s a strange place for a country known for its strong economy to find itself in, but the cause of the decline is obvious: Canada has a weak patent system. Without a doubt, trademarks and copyrighted works are well protected, but the need to patent innovation has apparently been forgotten.

Historically, Canadian companies and universities have been working closely with their US counterparts, but that came with a drawback: by focusing on submitting their inventions to the US Patent Office, the country neglected its own patent system. Canadian lawmakers clearly missed the boat and failed to spot how important patents would become in today’s hi-tech economy. Indeed, while in the 1980s a patent dispute would be settled for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, today the cost and penalties can easily run into hundreds of million of dollars. That’s why south of the border, in the United States, both Government and Congress have adapted to the times and repeatedly reformed the patent system (albeit imperfectly). In Canada, this simply did not happen.

This week, however, Canada’s news Minister of Industry and Innovations, Navdeep Bains, called for a rapid reform of the country’s laws protecting intellectual property rights. He wants Canada to become “a global center for innovation and creativity”, believes that the government should invest more to support inventors financially. All this sounds suspiciously like what Russia tried to achieve through its Skolkovo technology incubator. Skeptics argue that throwing money at the problem will not solve the innovation deficit. Instead, the country needs a wholesale reform of its science and technology sector.

For Canada, this would also require a reform not only of the country’s Patent Courts, but also the creation of a system that is focused on boosting Canadian scientists and inventors. It will take until such reforms deliver results, but they are likely to pay off over time. Hasty reforms, meanwhile, carry the threat of bringing the whole system crashing down.

Simply pumping more money into Canada’s system to reward and incentivize innovators also won’t be easy. To make it work, both companies and individuals need to be given the best legal tools that help them protect their intellectual property.

All of the above, of course, also holds true for Russia. So which of the two countries will solve its problems first? It’s a race, and arguably the winner may well take it all. It will all depend on securing real patents that earn real money.


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Author: grill-ip

Grill IP is a non-profit project for educational and entertaining purposes only. Our aim is to provide quick and easy access to aggregated and original patent news, IP analysis, interesting business cases in IP, basic legal updates and a list of patent transactions.

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