Innovative manufacturers in the United States welcomed positive news out of Canada on the eve of national holidays in both countries: the Supreme Court of Canada struck down an intellectual property approach that had stymied innovation and investment. Such inventiveness, secured by intellectual property, remains fundamental to the competitiveness of modern manufacturing in the United States and the millions of American jobs it supports.
Canada’s troubling “promise doctrine” originated from the fallacy that patents that do not fulfill their “promise”—as arbitrarily construed by the courts, often years after the patent was filed—are invalid, even if they meet internationally accepted criteria for patentability. Canadian courts began freely applying the rule in 2005 and have since revoked 26 patents, intended to help millions suffering from cancer, osteoporosis, diabetic nerve pain and other serious conditions.
In a unanimous decision, Canada’s highest court concluded that the “application of the promise doctrine” fails to determine the utility of patents and is “incongruent” with both the words and the approach of Canada’s Patent Act. This decision affirms the need for Canada and other countries to align their intellectual property policies and practices with global norms.
At a time when Canada and the United States are preparing for modernizing negotiations within the North American Free Trade Agreement, developments like this resolve remaining barriers that encumber North American manufacturers. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision supports stronger bilateral ties, investment and innovation in Canada and good, high-paying jobs for innovative American manufacturers.