Conflicted Regulation, the Public Interest and Canadian Patent Agency – Patent Agent Regulation at a Crossroads (Part 1)
Forthcoming, Intellectual Property Journal (IPJ)
27 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2019 Last revised: 14 Nov 2019
Date Written: June 18, 2019
The Canadian government has recently tabled legislation for self-governance of the Canadian patent and trademark agent professions, thereby creating the Canadian College of Patent and Trademark Agents. As such, regulation of the Canadian patent and trademark agent professions might become unique amongst comparable countries – Canada’s self-regulatory body may have authority over setting and administering competency-based standards, ethical standards and continuing professional education.
With respect to patent agency, self-regulation of the Canadian profession comes at a pivotal time, not just for Canada, but in technological history generally. We are now moving into the age of the fourth Industrial Revolution, where file sharing, additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D printing) and artificial intelligence (AI) are democratizing invention and along with it challenging long-standing patent law concepts. Furthermore, developments in AI are set to disrupt our traditional notions of professionalization and the delivery of professional services. Patent agency rests on the nexus of both movements and as such, patent agency and patent agent self-governance are approaching unique historical crossroads.
Part 1 of this piece highlights some of the issues that the Canadian profession has had to contend with in recent years along with several emerging trends, such as the growing IP clinical movement, new AI-driven service providers and a growing academic interest in the sociology and administration of patent law, all of which are coming to prominence while the Canadian patent agent profession is acquiring self-regulatory authority. Combined with changing notions of the patent system’s role in society, this raises the possibility of conflicts between professional self-interest entrenched within a self-regulatory governance model and shifting perceptions of the public interest. How the new Canadian patent agent self-regulatory body responds to these challenges will define whether Canada will be a leader in forward-thinking patent agency or whether patent agent self-regulation will become a convenient front for professional, rather than public interests.
Keywords: intellectual property, governance, patents
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