Canadians have made it through the first
four weeks of social distancing and are now settling into new routines as much
as possible. For many, that means turning to online resources for our business,
social, entertainment, educational, and fitness needs.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic,
there is a proliferation of innovative online offerings that are enabling our
businesses to continue operating, offering a sense of community, continuing
education, or even just providing ways for busy parents to entertain their kids
for a couple of hours. In a time of extreme isolation, the internet is bringing
Canadians together and helping us to stay connected.
One thing that has not changed, however,
is copyright law. Although the states of emergency declared across Canada and
around the world are disrupting many things, the Copyright Act remains in force.
Developing new online services that
attempt to replicate in-person interactions and transactions may trigger some
unexpected copyright obligations.
The rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant impact on intellectual property rights holders in Canada and around the world. As noted in our most recent IP bulletin, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) recently announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, March 16, 2020 to March 31, 2020 inclusive will be considered “designated days” under the applicable Canadian intellectual property legislation. This means that if a CIPO deadline under the Patent Act,Trademarks Act and/or Industrial Design Act falls on any of these “designated days”, the time period to respond will be extended to the next business day (e.g. April 1st, 2020).
To assist those having or seeking patent rights in Canada, CIPO has now prepared a series of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) regarding the COVID-19 service interruptions and patent prosecution matters before CIPO. Information on service interruptions with respect to the Trademarks Opposition Board (“TMOB”) can be found here.
CIPO is careful to point out that the
answers provided are only a guide and should not be considered legally
binding. CIPO recommends that everyone
consult a registered patent agent who can advise on any specific
situation. Anyone concerned about
Canadian patent prosecution deadlines should review all of the FAQs provided on
the CIPO website and consult a Canadian patent agent as applicable.
To that end, Fasken’s IP group is taking
steps to ensure continuity of our services to our clients over this period,
largely by working remotely. 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.
The coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on our personal lives, our countries and our economies! Canada’s Intellectual Property Office is no exception. While the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) currently remains open and in operation, significant delays in all CIPO services should be expected.
More importantly, CIPO has, on account of the unforeseen circumstances resulting from COVID-19, recently announced that for now March 16, 2020 to March 31, 2020 inclusive will be considered “designated days” under the applicable Canadian intellectual property legislation. This means that if a CIPO deadline under the Patent Act,Trademarks Act and/or Industrial Design Act falls on any of these “designated days”, the time period to respond will be extended to the next business day (e.g. April 1st, 2020). CIPO has also indicated that, if the circumstances that led to this designation continues, CIPO may decide to extend the applicable time period. CIPO’s decision coincides with fee, rule and procedural accommodations by other intellectual property offices, including the EU Intellectual Property Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Fasken’s IP group is taking 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.
The past two months have been marked by
unprecedented turmoil for the British royal family, after the announcement by
the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, that they would
step down as senior members of the royal family and entertain their own
financial independence. Under a new working arrangement, they will be free to
earn professional income and will have more liberty to pursue their charitable
endeavours. Further details on the specific arrangements can be found here.
In anticipation of their new
projects, a trademark application and a domain name registration for SUSSEX
ROYAL had been sought in the UK. Following a recent intervention by Her Majesty
the Queen herself, however, the use of the term “royal” has now been
disallowed. Since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would no longer be serving as
“royal” members and representatives, as they gave up their royal duties, then
there was no justification for them to further use this term. The UK trademark
application for SUSSEX ROYAL was thereby withdrawn.
This is the third
and final entry in a three-part blog series about the interaction between
estates law and intellectual property law. Part I introduced Ontario’s
succession law regime, and provided an analysis of succession law vis-à-vis
copyright law. Part II applied this analysis to trademark law. Finally, Part
III will examine this area in relation to patent law, as well as provide some
concluding thoughts and considerations.
In the previous two blog entries in this series, we have
provided an overview of succession law in Ontario, and have applied its
principles to the relevant provisions of copyright law and trademark law. This
week, we conclude by taking this same approach to patent law; as you will see,
patent legislation is in some ways more flexible and in other ways more
restrictive than copyright or trademark legislation
A patent provides a time-limited, legally protected, exclusive right to prevent others from making, using and selling an invention. An invention can be a product, a composition (such as a chemical composition), a machine, a process, or an improvement upon any of these (with certain exceptions).
Unlike copyrights and trademarks, patents must be registered in order for their owners to exercise the rights associated with them. According to Subsection 27(1) of the Patent Act, only an inventor or their “legal representative” (which has a similar definition to that of the same term in the Copyright Act) may apply for a patent; thus, it may be possible for a testator’s executor to apply for a patent even after that testator’s death.
On that note, similar to copyrights, it is possible for an
inventor’s employer to own a patent; however, the Patent Act does not have any provisions that explicitly state this.
Instead, the common law establishes that there is a presumption that an
employee will have ownership of their invention, and any resulting patent for
discoveries made during the course of employment (See Comstock Canada v Electec Ltd (1991),  FCJ No 987, 29 ACWS
(3d) 257). In order to rebut this presumption, there must be an express agreement
to the contrary, or the employee must have been hired for the express purpose
of inventing or innovating. Therefore, in drafting their will with respect to
patent rights, an individual should confirm with their contemplated executor
that an employer does not have any potential claims to their patent rights.
Furthermore, with respect to assignments of patents via a
will, Subsection 49(1) of the Patent Act allows
for the transfer of a patent and/or
the right to obtain a patent, in whole or in part. Thus, it would be prudent
for an individual who does not apply for a patent for whatever reason while
they are alive to inform their contemplated executors of their potential right
to obtain said patent and should assign said right in their will. Furthermore,
under Section 44 of the Patent Act,
in a manner slightly different from copyrights and trademarks, the term of a
patent is 20 years from the date that an application for said patent is filed. Thus, while a registered patent
expires, the right to obtain a patent does not (subject to satisfying
additional requirements for obtaining a patent, such as novelty, obviousness,
utility and subject matter), and neither term correlates with the death of the
All of this suggests that if a testator created a new
invention during the course of their life without patenting it, the
beneficiaries who received the patent rights under the will (or the residuary
beneficiaries if there was no specific patent-related provision in the will)
could very well make a successful application for a patent and benefit from the
rights of the patent over a 20-year period. The financial value of a patent
could be significant, so individuals should definitely account for the
potential value of the patent in determining how to distribute their estate.
That being said, from a practical perspective it would be prudent for an
inventor to apply for a patent while they are alive, as they would most likely
be more familiar with key details necessary to complete the application than
their beneficiaries would be.
Concluding Thoughts and Considerations
In making provisions for one’s intellectual property
rights in their will, it is important to consider provisions related to both
assignability and terms with respect to said intellectual property rights. For
the former, the key federal statutes grant the ability for one to assign these
rights through their will. For the latter, knowing when these rights expire is
critical for determining how to manage them in an estate planning (as well as an
overall financial planning) context, particularly because they may require
continued attention and maintenance from an executor.
In any event, it is clear that intellectual
property is very much property for the purposes of will-making, and thus one
should give any intellectual property that they may own just as much attention
as any of their other key assets. Thus, it is essential for one to, prior to
their death, keep their executors and trustees (and in many cases, their
beneficiaries) in the loop about what intellectual property rights they do or