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Daily Intellectual Property News

Daily intellectual property news delivered to your email inbox. Over 1200 IP professionals, including lawyers in private practice, in-house counsel, law clerks and lawyers at government agencies use this daily email to keep up to date on intellectual property law developments.

Sign up to receive daily updates on intellectual property in Canada, including new IP decisions, new actions, daily activity on files you are interested in, new Patent Appeal Board decisions, new TMOB decisions, etc. Existing subscribers can manage their subscriptions to receive some or all of these alerts depending on their interest. Highlights are also available on the IPPractice.ca blog. If you are interested, you can view a sample email or subscribe. Current subscribers can modify their subscription preferences.

Patent Retriever

You can use the patent retriever to receive PDF copies by email of most patent and published patent applications from around the world, including Canadian and from the United States. You can also obtain Canadian Patent Appeal Board decisions, United States re-issue patents and United States design patents.

Federal Court docket browser

Browse the recorded entries for Canada’s Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal. While some of this information is available directly from the Courts’ websites, this browser includes links to related proceedings, reported decisions, and links to the intellectual property at issue.

Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal hearings

A list of intellectual property hearings this week in the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, as well as all scheduled intellectual property trials, judicial reviews (including PM(NOC) hearings), and appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Patent and Trademark Statistics

Various statistics on patents and trademarks in Canada, including rankings of agents in Canada by volume of applications, and old act patents.

Litigation Statistics

Investigate litigation before the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, including lists of all intellectual properties actions in the courts and the status of the actions.

Practice Notices

Three practice notices came to my attention this week:

  • Practice Notice from CIPO for Objection Proceedings for Geographic Indicators under new section 11.13 of the Trade-marks Act
  • Practice Notice and guidance from the Federal Court on the scheduling of applications
  • Customs Notice advising that the Canada Border Services Agency Border Watch Line accepts information on shipments of counterfeit or pirated goods that are dangerous

…Read More

CETA

Changes to the Patent Act, Patent Rules, Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations and the Trade-marks Act, and new Certificate of Supplemental Protection Regulations come into force on September 21, 2017 as part of Canada’s implementation of CETA. Today, Health Canada released guidance documents on applying for Certificates of Supplementary Protection and on Health Canada’s administration of the PM(NOC) Regulations.

…Read More

Appointments

Justice Shirzad Ahmed was appointed to the Federal Court on Friday. In other appointments, Justice Ian Nordheimer was elevated to the Ontario Court of Appeal and Justice Barbara Fisher elevated to the BC Court of Appeal.

…Read More

Interuption

There was no IPPractice email on Monday due to changes with the Federal Court website that stopped the checks for new proceedings and updates on watched proceedings.

Life after Insolvency

The following article, Life after Insolvency, was originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily, March 16, 2017:

Intellectual property rights can be the lifeblood of a company. The insolvency of a licensee or licensor can cause havoc, or at least significant uncertainty with intellectual property rights. Who can continue to use the intellectual property rights, what royalties flow, and can intellectual property rights be licensed or used by someone new are all questions faced during an insolvency.

During an insolvency under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) or Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), there is significant power to disclaim or resile from contracts, particularly executory contracts. Since at their core, intellectual property licence agreements are contracts, the terms or the existence of a licence may be altered during this process.

One of the leading cases on this issue, decided prior to the amendments discussed below, held that an exclusive licence to use certain technology “only creates a contractual agreement as between the parties” and does not provide any property interest so assets could be transferred to a third party free and clear of the licence terms.

Both the BIA and CCAA were amended in 2009 to include provisions relating to intellectual property but the provisions had not yet received much judicial discussion. Both the BIA, in s. 65.11(7), and the CCAA in s. 32(6) have the same language: “If the [company/debtor] has granted a right to use intellectual property to a party to an agreement, the disclaimer or resiliation does not affect the party’s right to use the intellectual property — including the party’s right to enforce an exclusive use — during the term of the agreement, including any period for which the party extends the agreement as of right, as long as the party continues to perform its obligations under the agreement in relation to the use of the intellectual property.”

The Saskatchewan court in Golden Opportunities Fund Inc. v. Phenomenome Discoveries Inc. 2016 SKQB 306 was required to determine if certain technology of a debtor could be transferred free and clear by a court-appointed receiver to a third party. The licensor of the technology to the debtor sought to stay the vesting order until its interests in the property of the debtor that were being sold, could be determined.

The court found that the provisions of the BIA and CCAA did not apply to court-appointed receivers stating that “licences are simply contractual rights.” The aggrieved licensor could pursue monetary claims against the debtor but had no property rights in the assets being vested to the third party and the third party had no obligation to license back to the licensor improvements made on the technology. The terms of the licence would not apply to the third party.

The court distinguished between on the one hand the situation of a court-appointed receiver, and on the other proposals to creditors and arrangements under the CCAA where the above statutory language would apply.

Also last year, the Quebec Court of Appeal in 7158548 Canada Inc. c. Desbiens 2016 QCCA 306, referring to the BIA as well as the terms of the licence agreement relating to assignments, required a purchaser of assets through a proposal to creditors to honour the terms of a patent licence agreement and continue to pay royalties.

In this case, the court also recognized that the purchaser was not a third party but had a common principal with the insolvent company.

Even where the intellectual property provisions of the BIA and CCAA do apply, there is some uncertainty as to what is meant by the term “intellectual property” as that term is not defined. There is also uncertainty relating to the scope of the “right to use the intellectual property” referred to in the legislation. Patent licences, for example, typically include the right to make, use and sell the invention, not just the “use” specified in the legislation. Similarly, if the licence included the right of the licensee to grant further sublicences, would those rights continue?

Often, intellectual property licences are wrapped up into larger contractual arrangements, perhaps involving ongoing technical support, the sharing of improvements, or ongoing maintenance of the intellectual property. If only the portion of the contract relating to the “use of the intellectual property” is covered by the legislation, this may leave the licensee in an undesirable situation if other aspects of the contract are disclaimed. Also, it may leave the parties unclear as to what is required to “perform its obligations under the agreement in relation to the use of the intellectual property” if, for example, the royalty payment covers multiple aspects, only one of which is the intellectual property.

For companies entering into licence agreements, particularly where there is a concern of an insolvency by one of the parties, these sections of the BIA and CCAA should be reviewed having regard to the licence and contractual terms. According to the jurisprudence, if ownership in the intellectual property has been transferred, the transfer cannot be disclaimed during the insolvency. Therefore carefully structuring the intellectual property ownership is one way to provide additional certainty in the event of an insolvency. If access to source code is important to the licensee, it may be advisable to have a copy placed into escrow as part of the licence arrangement.

Insolvency, restructurings and proposals always involve uncertainty but for third party licensees who have relied on a long-term licence arrangement, the effects can be devastating. Intellectual property licence agreements have been recognized as being different than other contracts giving some reassurance that the licences will be recognized during an insolvency.

Alan Macek practises intellectual property law and litigation at DLA Piper in Toronto. Intellectual property rights can be the lifeblood of a company. The insolvency of a licensee or licensor can cause havoc, or at least significant uncertainty with intellectual property rights. Who can continue to use the intellectual property rights, what royalties flow, and can intellectual property rights be licensed or used by someone new are all questions faced during an insolvency.
During an insolvency under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) or Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), there is significant power to disclaim or resile from contracts, particularly executory contracts. Since at their core, intellectual property licence agreements are contracts, the terms or the existence of a licence may be altered during this process.

One of the leading cases on this issue, decided prior to the amendments discussed below, held that an exclusive licence to use certain technology “only creates a contractual agreement as between the parties” and does not provide any property interest so assets could be transferred to a third party free and clear of the licence terms.

Both the BIA and CCAA were amended in 2009 to include provisions relating to intellectual property but the provisions had not yet received much judicial discussion. Both the BIA, in s. 65.11(7), and the CCAA in s. 32(6) have the same language: “If the [company/debtor] has granted a right to use intellectual property to a party to an agreement, the disclaimer or resiliation does not affect the party’s right to use the intellectual property — including the party’s right to enforce an exclusive use — during the term of the agreement, including any period for which the party extends the agreement as of right, as long as the party continues to perform its obligations under the agreement in relation to the use of the intellectual property.”

The Saskatchewan court in Golden Opportunities Fund Inc. v. Phenomenome Discoveries Inc. 2016 SKQB 306 was required to determine if certain technology of a debtor could be transferred free and clear by a court-appointed receiver to a third party. The licensor of the technology to the debtor sought to stay the vesting order until its interests in the property of the debtor that were being sold, could be determined.

The court found that the provisions of the BIA and CCAA did not apply to court-appointed receivers stating that “licences are simply contractual rights.” The aggrieved licensor could pursue monetary claims against the debtor but had no property rights in the assets being vested to the third party and the third party had no obligation to license back to the licensor improvements made on the technology. The terms of the licence would not apply to the third party.

The court distinguished between on the one hand the situation of a court-appointed receiver, and on the other proposals to creditors and arrangements under the CCAA where the above statutory language would apply.

Also last year, the Quebec Court of Appeal in 7158548 Canada Inc. c. Desbiens 2016 QCCA 306, referring to the BIA as well as the terms of the licence agreement relating to assignments, required a purchaser of assets through a proposal to creditors to honour the terms of a patent licence agreement and continue to pay royalties.

In this case, the court also recognized that the purchaser was not a third party but had a common principal with the insolvent company.

Even where the intellectual property provisions of the BIA and CCAA do apply, there is some uncertainty as to what is meant by the term “intellectual property” as that term is not defined. There is also uncertainty relating to the scope of the “right to use the intellectual property” referred to in the legislation. Patent licences, for example, typically include the right to make, use and sell the invention, not just the “use” specified in the legislation. Similarly, if the licence included the right of the licensee to grant further sublicences, would those rights continue?

Often, intellectual property licences are wrapped up into larger contractual arrangements, perhaps involving ongoing technical support, the sharing of improvements, or ongoing maintenance of the intellectual property. If only the portion of the contract relating to the “use of the intellectual property” is covered by the legislation, this may leave the licensee in an undesirable situation if other aspects of the contract are disclaimed. Also, it may leave the parties unclear as to what is required to “perform its obligations under the agreement in relation to the use of the intellectual property” if, for example, the royalty payment covers multiple aspects, only one of which is the intellectual property.

For companies entering into licence agreements, particularly where there is a concern of an insolvency by one of the parties, these sections of the BIA and CCAA should be reviewed having regard to the licence and contractual terms. According to the jurisprudence, if ownership in the intellectual property has been transferred, the transfer cannot be disclaimed during the insolvency. Therefore carefully structuring the intellectual property ownership is one way to provide additional certainty in the event of an insolvency. If access to source code is important to the licensee, it may be advisable to have a copy placed into escrow as part of the licence arrangement.

Insolvency, restructurings and proposals always involve uncertainty but for third party licensees who have relied on a long-term licence arrangement, the effects can be devastating. Intellectual property licence agreements have been recognized as being different than other contracts giving some reassurance that the licences will be recognized during an insolvency.

Canadian Intellectual Property