IP Intensive Program: “Intellectual Property Policy is All IC” Reflecting on a Semester at Industry Canada

My time at Industry Canada as an IP Intensive student intern last fall was spent working within the Strategic Policy Sector (SPS), and more specifically a sub-group within the SPS called the Copyright and Trade-mark Policy Directorate (CTPD). The CTPD, along with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), is responsible for developing and advancing Canadian copyright and trade-mark law and policy. As someone with a specific interest in copyright and trade-mark law, I could not have asked for a better hands-on learning experience.

Right from the outset, I was welcomed as a new member of the CTPD team and was exposed to many of the things that they do. If I had to describe the work that I did with the CTPD, I would divide it into three rough categories. First, there is “research work”, where problematic areas of copyright or trade-mark law are identified. Research is undertaken to understand the issues, articulate it clearly, and explore the potential paths which the government could take to address the problem. During my placement, I was able to explore the problems that face the treatment of IP rights in cases of insolvency.

The second could be characterized as “everyday work”. This involves a variety of tasks that the CTPD is responsible for, including the everyday collaboration with other departments who need to understand the nature and status of Canadian IP law. During my placement, I was able to sample a variety of such projects ranging from docket assignments, to the drafting of briefing notes, to the composition of issue summaries, and to meetings with other governmental departments about the nature of Canadian IP law and policy. Especially prominent during my time at Industry Canada was the close collaboration of members of the CTPD with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development regarding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

The final category is best described as “legislative work”. This work must be done to ensure that a piece of legislation that will change IP law moves successfully through Parliament. In this regard, I was fortunate enough to have Bill C-8, the Combating Counterfeit Products Act (which would amend both copyright and trade-mark law) making its way through the legislative process. Most of my time was spent aiding the progression of the Bill. The challenge provided by working in these three capacities was a large part of what made my experience at Industry Canada so beneficial.

A significant reason why I was interested in participating in this program was due to my observation that I was being taught in class how to approach the law from the vantage point of a lawyer. Especially in such a technical area of law such as IP, it fascinated me to think that the people who developed and adapted the law were not necessarily legally trained, and thus did not necessarily share the view of the law that I was being taught.

My placement definitely gave me some insight on this. One of the biggest challenges that face policy makers, especially those in copyright and trade-mark policy, is finding an appropriate balance in the law. For example, one piece of policy may be very popular among industry groups, while at the same time very unpopular among consumer watchdogs. The role of Industry Canada is to maximize the beneficial economic effects of the IP regime, while also ensuring that it reflects the expectations of all Canadians.

This was a helpful, new lens through which to view the law. I realized that I had become so accustomed to treating the law as a code by which all actions must abide by, or perhaps more cynically as a means to a defined objective. The policy-maker’s view of the law is often very different. Instead of resisting change to long-established patterns or dismissing suggestions as too difficult to fit in the current legal framework, policy-makers must contemplate how to structure the entire legal framework so as to maximize the benefits and minimize the pitfalls. Often this means adopting a more macro view of the law than lawyers are accustomed to.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Industry Canada. It taught me a lot about IP, and reminded me that the law is more than a language lawyers speak; it is a living reality with real-world effects. Policy-making is the task of ensuring that living reality is one we all can enjoy.

Samuel Johansen is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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