2020-2021 Annual Report
Advancing innovation

CIPO plays an integral role within the Canadian innovation ecosystem. We focus on the modernization of the national IP system by harmonizing with our international counterparts to support innovators and entrepreneurs to grow their business in global markets and attract foreign investments to Canada. Continued collaboration with international partners and domestic stakeholders has helped strengthen the Canadian IP regime and provide our clients with opportunities to extract value from their creations and inventions. Innovation is further propagated through access to high-quality IP data and research that equip businesses with the intelligence to ideate, explore opportunities to grow, and increase their competitiveness.

Modernizing Canada's IP framework

CIPO's recent implementation of 5 international IP treaties positions Canada as a full participant in the global IP system—making it faster, convenient and cost-effective for Canadians to acquire IP protection in multiple countries and expand their businesses in international markets. Foreign investment in Canada is also made easier, as the process for securing Canadian IP protection has been simplified for non-residents. Since the coming-into-force of the Patent Law Treaty in October 2019, the Madrid Protocol, the Singapore Treaty and the Nice Agreement for trademarks in July 2019, and the Hague Agreement for industrial designs in November 2018, domestic and foreign applicants have shown significant uptake of these international IP provisions. In 2020−2021, Canada was designated in 21,825 international trademark applications filed through the Madrid System, ranking Canada in 5th place worldwide in terms of overall designations. CIPO also certified 653 trademark applications for international registrations as the Office of origin. Through the Hague Agreement, CIPO received 3,010 international industrial design applications, containing over 7,347 designs. Canada's modernized IP framework has allowed for better alignment with our international counterparts, enhanced e-services, lowered filing costs, and reduced administrative burden for applicants. Businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions have greater certainty and predictability, thereby facilitating international competitiveness and trade.

The Canada–United States–Mexico agreement came into force on . One of the many changes of the agreement requires Canada to amend its patent statute to provide patent term adjustment (PTA) for unreasonable prosecution delays by January 2025. The term adjustment serves to compensate eligible patentees for "unreasonable" delays in the issuance of their patent by extending the life of the patent beyond the current 20-year term.

In 2018, the Government of Canada introduced its IP Strategy, an initiative aimed at ensuring that Canadian businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators have access to the best possible IP resources. As part of this Strategy, the government announced the creation of a modern regulatory oversight body for patent and trademark agents through the establishment of the College of Patent Agents and Trademark Agents. Once the College is operationalized in 2021, CIPO will transfer the authority for agent regulation to the College. The creation of the College modernizes the regulatory framework for the IP profession. As an independent regulator, the College will govern the IP profession, establish a complaints and disciplinary process, enforce a code of conduct, and require agents to continue their professional development.

Collaborating with international partners

In 2020−2021, CIPO established a renewed approach to its international priorities and in representing Canada's interests abroad. CIPO's international strategy seeks to harmonize Canada's IP system with international standards and position itself as a modern IP office. The strategy aligns with federal trade policy priorities to support global market expansion, develop export strategies, and promote inclusivity in the global IP ecosystem.

CIPO continued to develop and maintain bilateral relations with its international counterparts to help strengthen Canada's IP regime. As of 2020−2021, CIPO was a signatory to 15 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with other countries and organizations to promote cooperation and improve the functioning of the international IP system. During 2020−2021, CIPO extended each of the 3 Patent Prosecution Highway agreements with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office and the European Patent Office (EPO). Further, CIPO finalized workplans with Intellectual Property India, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and IMPI. CIPO is finalizing an MOU with the Trinidad and Tobago Intellectual Property Office and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), and is developing workplans with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the EPO.

Konstantinos Georgaras, CIPO's Chief Executive Officer (Interim), presenting Canada's national statement at the opening session of the WIPO General Assembly in September, 2020.

Pandemic-related restrictions on international travel and large gatherings meant a hybrid format for the 2020 edition of the WIPO General Assembly held in September. Participants and delegates from around the world met to discuss IP-related issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on IP trends and office operations.

In the weeks following the Assembly, CIPO engaged through a number of bilateral meetings with key international partners, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the ARIPO, the EUIPO and the IPOS. Discussions focused on the operational impacts of the pandemic, namely the extension of deadlines, office closures and fee relief. We also shared how CIPO was supporting the fight against COVID-19 by accelerating the examination process for medical products and processes related to COVID-19 and prioritizing the health and safety of our staff and clients. Over the course of the year, CIPO also participated alongside other major IP offices in regular calls headed by then-director general of WIPO, Mr. Francis Gurry, to exchange information on emergency response measures and the continuation of WIPO business.

On , Mr. Daren Tang assumed the role of WIPO Director General. Soon after, CIPO met with Mr. Tang on the latest office developments regarding IP treaty implementation, filing trends and forecasts, and economic research. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss priorities of mutual interest and emphasize CIPO's commitment to international collaboration.

CIPO continued to engage with its international partners through virtual events to address IP issues and share information on best practices and policies. As a member of the Vancouver Group, CIPO has collaborated with Intellectual Property Australia and the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office on a number of research projects and performed extensive work in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, including sharing information on emergency response measures and initiating a collaborative research project on the ability of organizations to pivot and support the fight against COVID-19. CIPO contributed to the TM-Link database—an international database in which similar trademarks from different countries have been linked together—that will be used in joint economic research projects on trademark applications. CIPO was also an active participant of the Patent Searching Working Group, which has concluded its work examining IP search training, quality and collaboration. Lastly, CIPO developed and shared with Vancouver Group members a new forecasting methodology to study the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2020, CIPO, along with the USPTO, took part in a technical workshop on tools and practices developed by the EUIPO. The aim of the workshop was to provide a collaborative platform to share knowledge and experience concerning IT tools and common practices developed by the EUIPO. CIPO took this opportunity to discuss the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology in the IP ecosystem and in improving client service.

In October 2020, CIPO participated in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Intellectual Property Rights Experts Group workshop on industrial designs. Hosted by the USPTO, the workshop provided an overview of a modern industrial design protection system and discussed the importance of design protections for new and emerging technologies. CIPO was also 1 of over 70 participants at the Global IP Challenges Forum (IP20+) hosted by the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property. The forum gave way to a joint statement on the harmonization of IP operation measures and sharing of IP policy and knowledge that was endorsed by the IP offices of G20 countries.

In 2019, the International Trademark Association (INTA) launched a think tank of current and former heads of IP offices from around the world to reflect and exchange on the future of IP and the role of IP offices. The result was a report entitled "The IPO of the Future", which was officially released during a dedicated session at the INTA Annual Meeting in November 2020. The report proposes that IP offices of the future will need to look beyond their traditional mandate and become more agile, innovative and responsive to the evolving IP landscape and needs of clients. As a major contributor to this important project, CIPO presented highlights from the report, notably the need for IP offices to be resilient and equip themselves to withstand future crises using lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. CIPO also participated in a number of other sessions, including the Madrid System Users Meetings panel discussion on the better use of the Madrid System organized by WIPO. We used this opportunity to inform international clients of the requirements and practices to designate Canada under the Madrid System.

In November and December 2020, CIPO participated in the virtual Administrative Council meetings of the ARIPO and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI) and reiterated its commitment to collaborate with the global IP community in these uncertain times. Specifically, in its pre-recorded statements, CIPO commended the cooperation with the ARIPO through the signing of a bilateral MOU in 2020 and emphasized the importance of continued collaboration with the OAPI as CIPO is committed to serving clients with excellence in both English and French.

As more and more AI tools are developed and their application in the economy and society continues to grow, fundamental questions are raised about their impact on existing IP systems. In 2020−2021, CIPO participated in the third session of the WIPO Conversation on IP and AI, as well as the EPO's digital conference on the role of patents in an AI-driven world. These conversations explored the impact of Al on IP administration and policy and were a forum to learn about the latest initiatives by IP offices in relation to AI.

WIPO GREEN is an online platform that supports global efforts to address climate change by connecting providers and seekers of environmentally friendly technologies. As a member of the WIPO GREEN Core Committee, CIPO participated in several virtual meetings throughout the year. CIPO's participation in WIPO GREEN aligns with the Government of Canada's priority of promoting clean growth and strengthens our strategic engagement with WIPO.

Engaging our domestic stakeholders

Communication with our clients and stakeholders was at the forefront of CIPO's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The practice committees for patents, trademarks and industrial designs, comprised of members from IPIC and CIPO, provided a forum to discuss the operational impacts of COVID-19 with representatives of the IP profession. This dialogue helped to identify issues and develop solutions that would maintain the delivery of quality and timely IP services while minimizing the impact on clients.

A joint effort between CIPO and IPIC sought to review the issues and jurisprudence regarding the statutory subject matter of medical diagnostic methods. The Diagnostic Methods Working Group met in June 2020 to discuss potential changes in how CIPO examines medical diagnostic methods and share clients' views on improvements to the examination guidance.

In June 2020, CIPO hosted a town hall as part of the Canadian Bar Association's IP Day, a networking event for Canadian IP litigators across Canada. Participants learned about the impacts of the pandemic on CIPO's operations and the measures taken to mitigate them. CIPO presented a snapshot of the prevailing operational trends and explained how clients could avail themselves of the extended deadlines offered through the establishment of designated days.

Each year, CIPO engages top IP firms in Canada to solicit their input on select trademark and industrial design services. In 2020−2021, these meetings were held virtually and focused on CIPO's expanded telephone amendments practice and the e-enablement of existing services. CIPO also shed light on the development of new AI-based tools and the ongoing examiner staffing campaign to improve the quality and timeliness of trademark and industrial design rights.

Fostering innovation through IP data and research

In January 2021, CIPO published the 2020 edition of its IP Canada Report. This report marks the fifth installment of the annual publication that provides an overview of IP activity in Canada and by Canadians abroad. Canada remains an important destination for IP rights, evidenced by the continual growth of non-resident applications at CIPO over the last decade, which is due in part to Canada's accession to international agreements such as the Madrid Protocol in 2019 and the Hague Agreement in 2018. The report explores the use of plant breeders' rights, raising awareness of this form of IP. The report also evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on IP-related activity, notably filings and renewals, and how well Canadian institutions are equipped to respond to pandemics.

In March 2021, CIPO virtually hosted the 4th Annual IP Data & Research Conference in collaboration with the Centre for International Governance Innovation. The theme of the event was "IP and economic growth" and featured Jim Balsillie, former CEO of RIM as the keynote speaker. The event attracted over 500 IP stakeholders from international organizations, private sector firms and academia, IP lawyers and practitioners, economic researchers, and policy thinkers. The 2-day event included, for the first time, a Data Day that provided a forum for researchers and data scientists from around the world to share methodologies in IP research. Presentations included an overview of the EPO's PATSTAT database, IP Australia's TM-Link database, and select data activities conducted at CIPO.

In collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada, CIPO published a blog post entitled, Patenting to Fight Pandemics: The Canadian Story. The blog highlighted Canadian innovation between 1998 and 2018 to fight contagious diseases, notably therapeutics and vaccine development, rapid detection and diagnosis, and digital health. A comprehensive report on this topic will be released next year.

IP Horizons is CIPO's data portal that provides free bulk access to publicly available IP data. In 2020−2021, CIPO released patent and industrial design data in additional formats (CSV and TXT), with trademarks data soon to follow. IP data was also made available to the public through the Government of Canada Open Data Portal. Patent data is now among the top 20 most requested datasets on this Portal. By making IP data more available, accessible and usable for innovators, businesses and researchers, CIPO empowers R&D and innovation.

In October 2020, CIPO released the IP analytics report entitled, Processing Artificial Intelligence: Highlighting the Canadian Patent Landscape. The report highlights recent innovations in the field of AI by presenting advancements in both the global and Canadian landscapes. The report includes a contribution from our research partners at Statistics Canada that provides information such as the size, ownership characteristics and industry of Canadian institutions patenting in AI.