As the title of this blog alludes to, I joined the Copyright and Trademark Directorate (CTPD) at Industry Canada (IC) later transforming into the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (DISED or ISED? the jury is still out on the acronym) at a time of constant flux. I arrived at my internship a mere three weeks before the end of the longest federal election in recent Canadian history. This is of particular interest to policy-makers since the length and nature of this particular election meant a potential shifting of policy goals and mandates. I was incredibly fortunate to be at the precipice of change and be able to witness first-hand the machinery of the civil service in their faithful and earnest attempt to fulfill their mandates.
In terms of IP policy, CTPD shares this responsibility with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and Canadian Heritage. The benefit of sharing the responsibility of crafting IP policies across two other departments is that as a student you are exposed to a wide array of IP issues this can involve witnessing the formation of broad IP policies (at the domestic or international level) or be as specific as being tasked with examining the viability of reforming a particular subset of legislation found in a statue. Whether the IP issue is broad or narrow in nature, the policy approach is the same: examine the issue from multiples perspectives, consult with stakeholders, balance interests, and make policy recommendations based on evidence. This subset of skills is not something that is readily available in law school, and as a student, you will be tremendously grateful to be able to acquire them before heading out into the legal profession.
Every week as a student you will be invited to attend weekly policy meetings. The reason for face-to-face meetings with the CTPD section or at times individually alongside: the copyright, patents, or trademark teams is to facilitate open-communication and to flag or discuss potential upcoming policy decisions. This was one the highlights of my time at CTPD. For future reference, participation is not optional. As a student, your opinion is not only encouraged but valued.
As law students – especially students enrolled in the IP Intensive program – we tend to have our own ideas on how to properly reform the IP system. The CTPD team is compiled of the sharpest IP minds who also happen to have an open door policy with eager law students. I have spent countless afternoons in the offices of policy-makers in charge of trademarks, copyrights, or international IP files, to debate fine points of law and potential sets of reforms. It is in these earnest conversations where I found myself learning most about the unintended consequences (or havoc) my potential reforms would cause as well as the structural, political, and legal impediments to implementing any sets of reforms. For this reason, I will be entirely grateful for the entire CTPD team.
To cement your policy experience at CTPD, you should consider branching out and exploring the City of Ottawa. The Department’s office is mere steps away from Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada. If you keep an eye out, you might be able to catch great events: a night with a SCC judge, book talks hosted by the CBC , or a speaking engagement by a prominent politician. In terms of physical activities, I found that Ottawa has great bike trails and endless places to go for a quick run after work.
In the end, the experience is what the student makes of it. I intended to sharpen my policy-skills and learn the most effective manner to craft comprehensive and responsive IP policy. I honestly can say that I was able to achieve this goal. I would recommend this intensive program to any student who has an interest in policy-making and desires to receive a practical and unvarnished experience in this realm.
Mahdi Hussein 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.