Canada Announces Accelerated Exam for Pandemic Related Inventions Filed by “Small Entities”

On July  7th, 2020, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) announced a pilot project allowing applicants who qualify as “small entities” (e.g. universities, or businesses employing 50 or fewer employees) to expedite the examination of their patent applications for COVID-19-related inventions. Details of the program can be found on the CIPO website here. The program is limited, however, to only fifty (50) patent applications.

As businesses work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, this pilot project is designed to help smaller sized entities get products to market as soon as possible. To request accelerated examination under the program, applicants must include a statement that the technology is medical and related to COVID-19 and that an approval for its use has been obtained from or has been submitted to Health Canada.  Applicants must also have requested examination and paid the applicable Canadian government fee for requesting examination. Finally, the application must be open to public inspection or the applicant must have submitted a request for early publication. There is no additional fees to use this process.

For further information on whether you qualify and how to take advantage of this program or any other program at CIPO, please reach out to one of the patent professionals at Fasken.

Fasken’s IP group continues to take steps to ensure continuity of our services to our clients during the pandemic. As CIPO’s online solutions are available 24/7 and from anywhere, we are available to continue to assist our clients during this period. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, should you need assistance with your intellectual property.

UPDATED: The Canadian Intellectual Property Office Has Extended Deadlines Until July 20th

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) continues to provide updates on the continuing disruption to IP office deadlines under the Patent Act, Trademarks Act and/or Industrial Design Act caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. As we reported previously, June 15th to July 3rd were considered “designated days” under the applicable Canadian intellectual property legislation; the time to respond to certain CIPO actions therefore had been extended to July 6th.

On June 30th, CIPO announced that July 6th, 2020 to July 17th, 2020 inclusive will also be considered “designated days”. This means that the time period to respond may now be extended to the next business day, namely July 20th, 2020.

While the above noted designations by CIPO apply to most, but possibly not all, due dates that originate with CIPO, it is likely that obligations under international treaties and/or conventions, such as the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty, may still apply and must be complied with accordingly.  As such, any action(s) required to be taken in Canada between now and July 17th should be taken on or before the applicable date or discussed with a Canadian patent agent in order to ensure all rights in Canada and abroad are maintained.

Fasken has also established a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Knowledge Centre. Given the number of cases of COVID-19 in North America, and continued uncertainty around the world, organizations must plan to manage the impact on their operations and workforces, as well as protect their employees, their families and communities. Ensuring the health and safety of our people, clients and business partners is Fasken’s top priority.

Fasken’s IP group continues to take steps to ensure continuity of our services to our clients over this period, largely by working remotely. As CIPO’s online solutions are available 24/7 and from anywhere, we are available to continue to assist our clients during this period. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, should you need assistance.  In the meantime, we will continue to keep you informed of any developments as they occur.

Changes to the PMPRB Delayed Due to COVID-19

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) has delayed the coming into force of the amended Patent Medicines Regulations to January 1, 2021.

The Regulations Amending the Patented Medicines Regulations (Additional Factors and Information Reporting Requirements) were set to come into force on July 1, 2020 and provide the PMPRB with additional price regulatory factors to assess whether the price of a patented medicine sold in Canada was “excessive”. But on June 1st, 2020, the Canadian government delayed their coming into force, citing an increased demand on the pharmaceutical industry in light of COVID-19.

Then, on June 19th, 2020, the PMPRB released its Draft Guidelines 2020. These changes were the result of extensive stakeholder feedback received during public consultations. While the new Guidelines have the same conceptual structure as those released back in November 2019, there are now some substantial quantitative changes.

In particular, in the new Draft Guidelines 2020, the thresholds for identifying high-priority drugs has changed: The PMPRB will classify new patented drugs as either high or low priority based on their anticipated financial impact. If they have a high treatment cost (now above $90,000 annually per patient) or large anticipated marketed size (now above $50M in sales) then they will be subject to a more comprehensive price review. This comprehensive review will take into consideration new additional price regulatory factors, including a drug’s pharmacoeconomic value, market size and the gross domestic product (GDP) and GDP per capita in Canada.

The Draft Guidelines are available for public comment until July 20, 2020. We have extensive experience in this area and are available for a consultation if you are interested in responding.

Cease and Desist Letters: Use with Care

Cease and desist letters are an important part of a lawyer’s tool kit: they notify the recipient of a claim, and ideally lead to the client resolving an issue without litigation. However, receiving such a letter can be unpleasant. They may even seem excessive, as if they were intended to achieve the maximum possible threatening effect. In Fluid Energy Group Ltd. v. Exaltexx Inc. (“Fluid v. Exaltexx”), Justice McHaffie of the Federal Court found that that indeed appeared to be the intention of Fluid’s letters, taking the unusual step of issuing an injunction ordering Fluid not to communicate with Exaltexx’s suppliers with respect to such suppliers’ alleged infringement of Fluid’s patents.

Where is the line between an appropriate cease and desist letter and one worthy of an injunction? In the case of letters alleging patent infringement, strangely enough, the answer may lie in section 7(a) the Trademarks Act, which was the basis for Exaltexx’s motion for the interlocutory injunction. That section reads: “No person shall … make a false or misleading statement tending to discredit the business, goods or services of a competitor…” This provision, however, must be read down so as to include only statements relating to the competitor’s intellectual property.

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Because It’s 2020: Will Virtual Hearings Become the Norm?

The legal profession is already feeling the impacts of the coronavirus, and following recent judgements in Arconti v. Smith  and Natco Pharma (Canada) Inc. v. Canada (Health), videoconferencing technology is fast becoming a fixture of court proceedings[1] .

In Arconti, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that if the Plaintiffs wanted to examine for discovery one of the Defendants, they had to do it by videoconference, or forfeit the examination. Judge Myers ruled that there was no reason to hold up the proceedings until a traditional, in-person examination could take place once the pandemic restrictions had been lifted. He deemed videoconferencing “more efficient and less costly” than in person examination, reminding us that, after all, “it’s 2020”, and courts should make use of the technology available to them rather than clinging to the usual ways of proceeding. He also stated that in this day and age, a certain level of skill in using technology should be expected of lawyers and the courts.

The plaintiffs resisted discovery by videoconference, arguing that as opposed to in-person examination there is loss of communication and a risk of coordination by the witness and their counsel. The plaintiffs also argued that the lack of a courtroom setting might remove some pressure on witnesses to tell the truth, could facilitate abuse of process, and would reduce the ability to observe witness demeanor.

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