Indigenous IP, computer-generated artwork and CIPO practice updates -- This year’s IPIC annual conference had it all.
Every year, the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC) hosts a national conference, welcoming IP lawyers from all over Canada to network and to learn from leaders in the field. This year, the leadership at IPIC worked hard to make sure that the annual conference was just as meaningful and successful as other years, despite the challenges they faced with the ongoing pandemic. I was fortunate enough to attend “IPIC2020 Virtual: Emerging Trends in IP - What Does The Future Hold?” and I am excited to share some of the highlights of my experience.
Address by IPIC President, Stephanie Chong
The event began with an address from IPIC’s new President, Stephanie Chong, who emphasized that both COVID-19 and the social movements emerging internationally will have a major impact on the implementation of IPIC’s new three-year Strategic Plan. Ms. Chong shared that IPIC is committed to working on tangible initiatives to increase equity, diversity and inclusion within the organization and in the IP profession at large.
One of the highlights for me was the “Fireside Chat” with The Honourable Thomas Cromwell. He fielded questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the court system, whether courts should adopt an approach of technological neutrality or technological novelty, and whether Canada should have specialist judges for IP-related matters. He tackled these complex issues in stride and I really enjoyed listening to his perspective.
Another presentation that I particularly enjoyed was the Indigenous IP session. Professor Catherine Bell of the University of Alberta shared a number of useful sources to learn more about Indigenous perspectives on IP. These include the Indigenous Heritage Circle and the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage project at Simon Fraser University. She also pointed to the beginning of a relationship between Tsilhqot’in Nation and University of British Columbia, which, among other things, provides that Tsilhqot’in Nation will own any data that comes out of research done in collaboration with the University.
Following Professor Bell, Merle Alexander of MT + Co reminded us that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit in IP law that could be fairly easily addressed by looking at other jurisdictions, similar to ours, which have made progress regarding Indigenous rights in relation to IP.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) had a strong presence throughout the conference, providing practice updates for CIPO in general, but also for the patent and trademark branches, respectively. The CEO of CIPO, Konstantinos Georgaras, emphasized that COVID-19 actually pushed the office to take measures that it had already been moving towards, such as the further digitalization of correspondence.
CIPO’s goal is to provide entirely digital correspondence in the future, and during this time, it has made strides towards that objective. Georgaras also pointed out that the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and CIPO chatbot was a great resource during this time, which of course made me appreciate the IP Osgoode Chatbot, aptly named Isaac Pewton, for its value as well.
Other presentations during the conference covered such topics as the top IP cases of 2020, file wrapper estoppel, updates to section 56 of the Patent Act, site blocking, patentable subject matter of computer implemented inventions and copyright issues surrounding machine-generated works.
There were too many fascinating topics discussed this year to cover in one short blog, so the surest way not to miss out on stimulating discussions with leaders in IP law is to register for next year’s conference. IPIC plans to hold its next annual conference in Newfoundland next October.
I want to thank IPIC for allowing me to attend the conference on behalf of the IPilogue. It was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend that students who are able to become members of IPIC do so. There is a student membership rate, and financial aid available for those who qualify. I have found it to be a welcoming and supportive community, and I hope that all who are interested in practicing IP law get a chance to experience it for themselves!
Written by Rachel Marcus. Rachel is a third year student at Osgoode Hall Law School and is currently enrolled in Professors D’Agostino and Vaver 2020/2021 IP & Technology Law Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Rachel has been a member of IPIC since 2018 and is currently a part of the IPIC Mentorship Program.