Canada’s Role in the Relationship of Trade and Intellectual Property

Canada in International Law at 150 and Beyond Paper No. 17

March 19, 2018

This paper shows the provocative, unique, evolving and important role that Canada has played since Confederation in 1867 in the development of international treaties dealing with intellectual property (IP) law. Initially burdened by its status as a British colony, and later by the powerful economic and political influence of the United States, Canada had developed, by the mid-twentieth century, an independent voice on IP policy and asserted its own sovereign interest. It became a key middle-power leader in the movement toward the arranged marriage of IP and trade law, which ultimately resulted in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now, with the apparent denouement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, its possible resurrection as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (without the United States and its more excessive demands), the successful conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the renegotiation of NAFTA, Canada stands poised to once again play an influential and even key international role, while striving to act in its own best domestic interests.

Part of Series

Canada in International Law at 150 and Beyond/Canada et droit international : 150 ans d’histoire et perspectives d’avenir

Marking 150 years since Confederation provides an opportunity for Canadian international law practitioners and scholars to reflect on Canada’s past, present and future in international law and governance. This series of essays, written in the official language chosen by the authors, that provides a critical perspective on Canada’s past and present in international law, surveys the challenges that lie before us and offers renewed focus for Canada’s pursuit of global justice and the rule of law. The project leaders were Oonagh E. Fitzgerald, director of the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI); Valerie Hughes, CIGI senior fellow, adjunct assistant professor of law at Queen’s University and former director at the World Trade Organization; and Mark Jewett, CIGI senior fellow, counsel to the law firm Bennett Jones, and former general counsel and corporate secretary of the Bank of Canada. The series was published as a book titled Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law/Réflexions sur le passé, le présent et l’avenir du Canada en matière de droit international in spring 2018.

About the Author

Howard P. Knopf is counsel with Macera & Jarzyna, LLP in Ottawa, Canada. He has worked in government and the private sector, mainly in the areas of copyright, trademarks, cyber law, competition and related issues. His litigation successes include important decisions in the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada on issues involving file sharing, privacy, private copying levies, parallel importation, fair dealing and Copyright Board tariffs.