Last semester, as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program, I had the opportunity to work with in-house counsel at AstraZeneca Canada. Having previously completed graduate studies in organic chemistry, I had always been very interested in the scientific aspects of the drug development process so I was very excited to have the chance to learn about the legal issues pharmaceutical companies face after a product has been developed. While issues relating to intellectual property law were certainly central to the work I carried out over the semester, I was also exposed to other areas of law important to AstraZeneca Canada’s business. I think the most important lesson I will take away from my time at AstraZeneca is how crucial it is to understand how a business works in order to fully understand its legal needs.
One of the most interesting aspects of working at AstraZeneca Canada was having a front row seat to the development of issues currently facing the pharmaceutical industry. In law school I found students were more accustomed to learning about something that had already happened – waiting for a decision to be released or legislation to be updated. However, at AstraZeneca I was able to work in areas where live debate was still taking place. While at AstraZeneca Canada I had the chance to see the AstraZeneca Legal Affairs team, in conjunction with external counsel, submit an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in a case concerning the utility requirement in patent law. Additionally, I was able to work with the government affairs department in crafting policy statements concerning issues from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union such as patent term restoration, an innovator right of appeal in PM(NOC) proceedings and data protection as well as the implementation of a set of proposed Intellectual Property Enforcement Guidelines for pharmaceutical patent litigation settlements.
As understanding the different facets of AstraZeneca’s business was an important part of my internship, my placement supervisor arranged for me to go on several “field trips” and to meet with employees from different departments each week so I could learn about their role at the company. For example, one day we went on a tour of AstraZeneca Canada’s distribution facility where all their pharmaceutical products are stored and shipped. The guide taught us about what happens when product is returned, when product expires and when, for whatever reason, the product is shipped or stored outside the ideal conditions. While at first glance this may seem far removed from intellectual property law, the next week we attended an examination for discovery where these types of questions came up. After spending time with employees from government affairs, regulatory, and marketing I began to see how all of the various departments came together to carry out the company’s goals and to learn about the legal issues they might face on a day-to-day basis. In particular, one of the projects I worked on was updating and redesigning the internal AstraZeneca Canada Legal Affairs website. This gave me some insight into what issues AstraZeneca employees from other departments might seek out the advice of legal affairs for – including what to do if they received an access to information request or how to make sure they were compliant with Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation.
Overall, my experience at AstraZeneca Canada was a very positive one. While my internship was certainly instructive, I also had a lot of fun! I was able to attend a product launch for DUAKLIR GENUAIR, several turkey dinners and a clinic offering AstraZeneca’s FluMist product, an intranasal flu vaccine. (While it might be a stretch classifying the latter as fun, it was certainly more enjoyable than the flu shot alternative!) The Legal Affairs team was very welcoming and I am grateful to them for taking the time to teach me about some of the work they are involved in. Participating in the Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program was one of the highlights of my law school experience. It was a rare chance to become involved in the practical, as opposed to the academic, aspect of intellectual property law and it provided a perspective that was different from both the classroom and working at a law firm as a summer student.
Corey McClary 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.