Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Doha Round to conclude?

The Doha Round of trade negotiations at the WTO has been underway since 2001.  Every so often one could read about talks "collapsing", deadlines being missed and/or extended, and various commentaries about how awful it was that there was no agreement yet.

All of which strikes me as overblown.  Yep, trade negotiations at the WTO take a long time - especially since the talks now feature effective involvement by many more countries with a greater diversity of economic development and interests.  What else could you expect?  Surely, any new agreement would require years of talking first, and waiting to see how things are working out under the last big trade agreement (which was a pretty major change - establishing the WTO).

Anyway, there are thoughts that the Doha Round may conclude next year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CETA talks moving along...

An article appeared in the National Post today by John Ivison discussing the Europe/Canada free trade deal talks.  The article specifically brings up the pharmaceutical/IP issue as a stumbling block:

One sleeper issue could yet derail the whole process. Most of the negotiations should be encouraged, since they are likely to reduce the costs to consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, the European Union is pressing for intellectual property changes that would give brand name drugs several years more of patent protection, delaying the entry into the market of cheaper generic drugs.

In the House of Commons, NDP MP Peter Julian asked Mr. Van Loan if the government has done any due diligence on what this would mean for provincial drug plans. The answer was equivocal but it is clear any such agreement would increase costs to provinces already battling soaring health costs.

One drug, Pfizer’s Lipitor had annual sales of $1.3-billion in Canada during its last year of patent protection, which ended in July. Generic versions of the drug are now being sold for 25% of that price, which would mean provinces would be paying an extra $1-billion this year if the EU’s rule was in place. The brand-name companies argue this is short-sighted and that Canada will be by-passed when the latest drugs come out if it doesn’t fall into line with the EU on patents. It remains to be seen whether the provinces buy that argument.
As has been noted before, the depth and breadth of any deal relies on the cooperation of the Canadian provinces.  On the pharmaceutical issue, even though the European draft language addresses areas of Federal jurisdiction (i.e. the Federal government has the authority to legislate the changes Europe wants without provincial cooperation), it is the provinces who will largely be paying for any extra periods of exclusivity for patent- or data- protected pharmaceuticals.  One possible outcome is that pharma/IP issues are sacrificed in a trade - for example, the provinces get a win on pharmaceutical costs in return for the provinces' agreement to open up their procurement processes to European companies.   

Its a bit dated, but Cyndee Todgham Cherniak wrote about a month ago that provincial agreement to the EU/Canada deal might be difficult, pointing out that several provincial premiers are on politically shaky ground and may not want to face a trade-related debate.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google to solve European patent harmonization deadlock?

An interesting note via IPKat: The European Patent Office and Google have signed an agreement to use Google's machine translators to translate patent documents into the many languages used in Europe. 

This is potentially a bigger deal than may be apparent to readers in the New World.  There has been a movement in Europe since at least the 1970's to have a true European Patent, enforceable in all European states, including the moribund and non-enacted Community Patent Convention.  Since a European patent isn't in the cards, Europe has instead concentrated on harmonizing national systems and growing the European Patent Organisation, via the European Patent Convention (which is in force).  

In both cases, perhaps the biggest obstacle is language.  Its costly for applicants to translate patents into national languages, and European patent law harmonization efforts are largely European patent language harmonization efforts.  Language is highly political in Europe: if European patents are required to be translated into English, French and German, but not Spanish or Italian, what does that say about the state of Spanish and Italian in the world (or at least Europe) today?

Personally, I think that patents aren't just for multinational corporations, but should be able to be read by the guy running the family manufacturing business - which means I think that if you live in Poland, you ought to have Polish patents (or European patents enforceable in Poland) available to you in Polish.  Even if it does mean foreign companies have to pay to translate their patents.

But, having said that Europe has its own reasons for harmonization and reducing national sovereignty (WWI & II, for starters), so if they want to make Europe an English/German/French patent zone, who am I to complain?  Although I note that the European drive for political and economic harmonization can hardly be said to apply to global patent harmonization efforts - or even other regional harmonization efforts.

Anyway, getting back to the main point of this post, automatic translators like google raise the possibility of cutting the gordian knot regarding language and patents.  If the google and similar translators become able to do a "good enough" job - and I don't think that perfect translation is necessary in the case of patents - a very central, expensive and highly political feature of the patent law harmonization landscape may disappear.

Which would be pretty profound.  (Albeit, working universal translators would probably be pretty profound in general...  ) 

Gilbert's is #1 !

At recruiting!  For the second year in a row, the Ultra Vires student newspaper at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law has named us the top boutique firm for recruiting.

Gilbert's has mastered the art of recruiting, earning top spot among boutique firms for the second consecutive year.  Students marveled at the "fantastic OCI team" and described the recruiting process with the "fun, young" firm as "amazing". 
A tip of the hat to Alison Lester, who coordinated recruiting this year.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

CSI Ottawa (Patent Unit)

A should-read if you're interested in high tech patent litigation - the Globe and Mail has an article on Ottawa's latest high-tech industry - tearing apart high tech devices looking for proof of patent or other intellectual property infringement.

An interesting quote

Canada’s other competitive advantage is that it’s not the United States, where the global patent wars are largely fought. Mr. Page of UBM TechInsights pointed out that some of its customers feel more comfortable dealing with a Canadian company, convinced their confidential information is better shielded from the prying eyes of patent lawyers and U.S. court orders. “Our clients like that we keep … all the dialogue surrounding their programs on Canadian soil,” he explained.

RIM sues KIK Messenger for patent infringement

As has been widely reported, RIM has sued KIK Messenger for patent infringement, breach of contract etc. etc. in the Federal Court.  KIK Messenger's texting app went viral over the last two months; several people have pointed out that it challenges the market positioning of RIM's own BBM service.  Another twist is that the founder of KIK, Ted Livingston, used to work for RIM, and the suit accuses Livingston of violating his confidentiality agreement with RIM.

NP article HERE

Ted Livingstone's post in response HERE  (titled "A Sad Day in Waterloo")