Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

Bill C-4, entitled An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States was tabled in the Parliament of Canada on January 29, 2020.  The bill introduces some amendments to Canadian law required for compliance with the recently renegotiated Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, most commonly referred to in the press as the “USMCA.”  

Bill C-4 does not address all of the changes required under the USMCA, and is merely the first step in a process of legislative changes expected to roll out over the next few years.

If ratified, the USMCA will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and require a number of changes to Canada’s IP laws, including the following three changes of particular significance:

  1. Introduction of a patent term adjustment procedure to compensate for Patent Office delay in issuing a patent.  Canada must implement its obligations under this provision within 4.5 years of the date the USMCA enters into force.
  2. An increase of the copyright term from life of the author plus 50 years to life of the author plus 70 years.  Canada must comply with this requirement within 2.5 years of the date the USMCA enters into force.
  3. Suspected counterfeit goods that are in transit (i.e., traveling through but not destined for Canada) will become susceptible to detention at the border.

For further details of the USMCA, please see our previous article here.

Bill C-4 makes amendments to certain intellectual property provisions in the Copyright Act, the Trademarks Act, the Criminal Code, and the Customs Act. There are no amendments to the Patent Act at this time, which is not surprising given the 4.5-year time frame noted above for implementation of those changes. The most significant IP amendments in Bill C-4 are: (i) to amend the Trademarks Act to make suspected counterfeit goods in transit open to detention while in Canada, as mentioned above, (ii) to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offense to knowingly obtain or communicate a trade secret, (iii) and to extend the copyright term in anonymous works, cinematographic works and sound recordings. The term extension for standard copyrighted works will follow in separate legislation.

Bill C-4 had its second reading in the House of Commons on February 6, 2020, and has been referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade for review and a report back to the House. After passing a third reading in the House of Commons, the Bill will undergo a similar process in the Senate. Once the House and Senate have passed the Bill in the same form, it can receive Royal Assent by the Governor General, and subsequently become law. The intellectual property provisions of the Act will come into force on a day fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

We will follow the progress of Bill C-4 in Parliament and provide updates in the event of significant progress in the ratification of the USMCA.

The preceding is intended as a timely update on Canadian intellectual property and technology law. The content is informational only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. To obtain such advice, please communicate with our offices directly.