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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.
This study is a contribution to the debate around the advantages and hurdles of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) becoming an international search authority (ISA) and an international preliminary examination authority (IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
The report reflects the points of view of a small but significant subset of CIPO's clients and partners. Twenty-four among the finest Canadian intellectual property professionals were consulted directly to identify the significance for their clients and themselves of the eventual implementation of the project and to document their position on its relevance and its feasibility. Telephone interviews were carried out between July 19, 2001 and September 13, 2001. The agents consulted worked in firms which have filed 66% of PCT applications in the recent past. In addition, some interviews were carried out with IP professionals working inside companies who registered claims using the PCT process.
Four issues were addressed in this consultation:
Overall, three relatively equal-size groups emerged.
The first group favoured the ISA/IPEA project as a way to reposition Canada in upcoming international discussions. By their own account, representatives from this group were more aware of proposals for PCT reform and have paid more attention to recent debates on related issues. Their position was largely defensive: they considered that without a change of status, CIPO will rapidly become marginalised, along with other strictly national offices, as international offices acquire a more and more prominent status in the quest for a simplified patenting system.
The second group was generally receptive to the ISA/IPEA project as a way to improve CIPO's ability to face its national challenges. They thought that CIPO would better serve Canadian small and medium size businesses and individual inventors if it had improved tools and if it was in a position to perform international searches with a Canadian flavour. They considered that an improvement in CIPO's status would generate side benefits for (national and international) patent applicants.
The third group was against the project altogether. They did not attach value to Canada's acquisition of more international profile or they were sceptical about the possibility of such a gain in clout to take place. They had lukewarm feelings concerning CIPO's current performance some were highly critical and they concluded that CIPO should focus on its national work before considering any extension into the international territory. They envisioned that the effort and investments required to deliver quality international searches and examinations largely exceeded CIPO's existing resources and the resources that the government of Canada may be willing to tag on this objective.
Much of the key informant reactions to the proposed project were driven by the value they associate with the PCT application process. Key informants were adamant that the main advantage they get from the current PCT process is the quality search performed by the EPO. This search critically reduces uncertainty in business decisions concerning the next steps in the protection strategy. The majority of key informants was not willing to put this aspect of the process in jeopardy for possible but uncertain benefits down the road.
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