Potter: Should Canada treat its intellectual property as a national asset?

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10 October, 2011
By: Pitman Potter
Professor of Law at UBC and Hong Kong Bank Chair in Asian Research at UBC's Institute of Asian Research

Intellectual property is generally privately owned.  IPR protection regimes are in effect an exercise of public authority to protect private interests through law and regulation.   This combination of private property and public institutional protection invites consideration  of the public policy underpinnings of IPR protection regimes – namely the effort to stimulate innovation by rewarding innovators with monopoly rights to their ideas.   This in turn is thought to lead to technological development, economic growth and resulting benefits Hence IPR regimes should be assessed in light of their effects on innovation and resulting public benefits. Accordingly I would treat Canada’s capacity for innovation and Canada’s  IPR protection regime developed to stimulate innovation as national assets.  I would accept that intellectual property itself is a private asset that can be (but is not always) developed and deployed in the public interest. Therefore I would suggest that Canada’s IPR regime (and to the extent we have influence, the international IPR regime) should be managed in such a way as to promote Canada’s public interest in innovation and its application for the public good.   

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