IP Intensive: A Semester at Industry Canada - Policy-Making in Canada's Legal Epicentre

I’m able to catch a small slice of the chaos unfolding below while peering out through the line of windows spanning the 10th floor of the C.D. Howe Building. What began as nothing more than rumblings of a rumour has turned into a full-fledged security lockdown, with the entire city of Ottawa in a frantic and admittedly frightening upheaval. Corporal Nathan Cirillo is a name that won’t soon be forgotten, a victim of senseless violence that all too often finds prominence on the front pages of newspapers the world over. Yet returning to my position within the Copyright and Trade-mark Policy Directorate (CTPD) at Industry Canada (IC) a mere 15 hours after leaving to the sight of red lights and yellow tape, I find it both unsettling and strangely comforting to witness work recommence.


It’s rare for the wheel of government to stop spinning, propelled by a necessary inertia. At least within Canada, without the force of government guiding developments, it really is difficult to imagine what the legal landscape might resemble.

 

When it comes to IP, IC is at the helm, a position it shares with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and Canadian Heritage. The work of my particular department, the CTPB, is based on a relatively broad mandate that is always bogged down by details. This is because the CTPB is charged with the task of refining Canadian IP laws in a way that fosters business potential (i.e., “Industry”) while accommodating the needs of the country’s economic constituents (i.e., “Canada”). A balanced approach is therefore part and parcel of IC’s mandate. Consequently, the work that I became involved with while at CTPB was diverse – general in some instances and intimately specific in others.

 

However, the one constant throughout my time with IC was the weekly meetings. The team at CTPB encourage open lines of communication, as a concerted effort is needed for legislation to make its way through the House (it’s a long road to Royal Assent). These meetings ensure that everyone is aware of developments on relevant files, and serve as a pillar through which everyday tasks, ranging from the creation of binders, speeches and briefing notes to the management of long term research projects, gain clarity. Given the “secret” nature of the files I worked on, I can’t provide substantive details. However, I will say that my interest was piqued during my first week and I rarely felt a dip thereafter. In terms of gaining an in depth look into IP policymaking – specifically, the ways in which socio-cultural trends impact laws, thereby impacting people – I could not have asked for a better placement.

 

Depending on your position, you might also be curious as to what Ottawa has to offer. After all, only 1/3 of your time will be spent at the office. Although moving to a new place can be an extremely lonely transition, that is precisely what makes the experience so spontaneously engaging. And Ottawa, serving as Canada’s capital and legal refinery, places before an unfamiliar face a unique breadth of opportunities. As mentioned, working within a legal department such as IC provides a glimpse into the gearbox of government, but even outside of the placement itself there are a number of venues worth visiting. The history attaching itself to Ottawa is especially visible around IC, which is built on a block that neighbours Parliament to the west. Some of the country’s oldest institutions reside along a strip of land no larger than York University’s campus. Work on files in the morning and catch Question Period in the afternoon. Put in a bit of extra effort one week and perhaps even take a seat in the hearing room of the SCC. I was lucky enough to do exactly that when I observed R v. Carter. Seeing a Supreme Court case unfold in person is surprisingly insightful, and it really helped to bridge certain gaps I’d held previously regarding the process of appellate litigation.

 

In the end, every experience is contingent on what you make of it. Simply put, IC offers insights that no academic course can match. The placement forces you to view law through a public lens, and in that sense it offers the benefit of pre-emptively breaking the mold in which many soon-to-be lawyers find themselves immersed during practice. If your interest lies in policymaking and you wish to capture an honest view of the inner workings of democracy in action, you won’t likely find a better opportunity to do so anywhere else.

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

– See more at: http://www.iposgoode.ca/2015/01/ip-intensive-program-a-semester-at-venturelab/#sthash.iSvircOZ.dpuf

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

– See more at: http://www.iposgoode.ca/2015/01/ip-intensive-program-a-semester-at-venturelab/#sthash.iSvircOZ.dpu

 

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

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