Bad Move for Canada? TPP's Rules on Intellectual Property Pulled into Spotlight

By Blatchford, Andy | The Canadian Press, November 11, 2015 | Go to article overview

Bad Move for Canada? TPP's Rules on Intellectual Property Pulled into Spotlight


Blatchford, Andy, The Canadian Press


TPP copyright rules under microscope

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OTTAWA - Concerns voiced by Jim Balsillie over the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty have intensified scrutiny of the pact's intellectual-property provisions -- and whether they represent a bad deal for Canada.

The former co-chief executive of Research in Motion fired off warnings this week about the final text of the 12-country agreement, a deal reached after years of mostly secret negotiations.

Balsillie's TPP criticisms zeroed in on intellectual-property rules that he says would favour the more-dominant United States and its companies that already own ideas. These conditions, he added, would harm emerging entrepreneurs in the business of innovation from smaller countries like Canada.

Over time, he believes the standards could cost Canada billions of dollars in lost prosperity in the growing innovation segment of the economy -- which, he argues, could make signing the deal Canada's worst-ever policy decision.

Balsillie is not alone in his concern.

A week after the text's release to the public, more and more experts have pored over its fine print -- and some have found problematic elements rolled into the deal's chapter on intellectual property.

Michael Geist, a law professor who specializes in intellectual property, agrees the TPP's copyright provisions could prove costly for Canadian companies, particularly when it comes to lost opportunities.

Geist called the treaty's intellectual-property standards a "failure" and said their impact could be significant because they would govern the increasingly important innovation share of Canada's economy.

"What we're fundamentally talking about is establishing the rules of the road for virtually all Canadian business, for the Canadian economy and for much of the global economy for years and decades to come," said Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

"Those who set the rules for those industries put themselves at a competitive advantage and in this instance it's quite clearly the United States."

With a new federal government now in charge, Balisllie's assessment comes at a critical time for Canada's future in the TPP, a wide-ranging pact expected to benefit other Canadian sectors -- from agriculture to auto parts.

The Trudeau government is reviewing the deal as it determines whether to support an agreement negotiated --and committed to -- by their Conservative predecessors.

Copyright expert Ariel Katz said American influence in the intellectual property system would give U.S. companies an edge because net exporters of technologies would generate cash from everyone else.

In addition, Katz said those costs and the protected ideas themselves would make it more difficult for other companies, such as Canadian firms, to develop their own technologies.

Katz, an associate law professor, also warned that ratifying the TPP would lock Canada into a deal that could not be modified, even if issues surface down the road. …

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