Intellectual Property 2017: A Year in Review

It is hard to believe that 2017 is coming to an end but the New Year is just around the corner. Many would agree that 2017 was an eventful year and intellectual property law was no exception to this statement. Below, we will share some important, ground-breaking, funny or interesting intellectual property stories from 2017.

January 2017: The World Trade Organization finalized a 2005 TRIPS waiver that permits Third-World countries to import drugs made under “compulsory licensing” arrangements. The waiver required 2/3 of the WTO members’ support and in January 2017, they got these required votes. This decision highlights the balancing act between accessibility and ensuring an inventor’s right to profit.

February 2017: The European Parliament approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Free trade agreements frequently present many questions about intellectual property in the international context and require changes to domestic legislation. Due to this trade agreement, Canada has to protect new geographical indications. One such GI is feta cheese.

March 2017: Due to public backlash, IBM donated a patent for the “out of office” email feature to the public. This technology is more than 20 years old. IBM’s donation highlights public opinion’s effect on challenging unpopular intellectual property.

April 2017: World Intellectual Property Day always falls on April 26! This day celebrates innovation’s many benefits.

May 2017: The UK Court of Appeal ruled that Kit Kat’s shape is not worthy of trade-mark protection. They decided it is not “distinctive” enough.

June 2017:  In AstraZeneca Canada Inc. v Apotex Inc., Canada’s Supreme Court abolished the promise doctrine. This doctrine stated a patent had to meet all its promises and this requirement was strict by international standards. What is interesting is the Court’s decision primarily focused on what constituted  “good law”. Little attention was paid to international standards.

July 2017: During the summer, students are probably not thinking about the textbooks but the Federal Court was. In Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency v. York University, the Federal Court ruled York’s policy that students could photocopy up to ten percent or one chapter of a textbook was not “fair dealing”. They argued this exception was “arbitrary”.

August 2017: India granted Pfizer’s anti-pneumonia drug, Prevenar 13, a patent. Critics, like Doctors without Borders, feared this decision would threaten accessibility because India is a major exporter of generic drugs.

September 2017: The European Court of Justice sent a fine, for an anti-trust violation, against Intel back to a lower court to review. Previously, the lower court decided Intel blocked competition. This case highlights broader, philosophical questions about how to regulate technology giants.

October 2017: In a case fitting for the season, Rasta Imposta sued Kmart for trade-dress and copyright infringement when Kmart unveiled a banana costume that was similar to Rasta Imposta’s costume.

November 2017: Counter counterfeiting. The European Commission instituted new policies to fight counterfeit items. Such policies include improving efforts to fight counterfeiting with other jurisdictions and creating a watch list of nations that are common sources of fake goods. With Canada ranking among the top source of fake goods, the Canadian government might be concerned about this watch list.

December 2017: Let’s block the copycats. The Shantou Intermediate People’s Court ruled that Bela, a Chinese company, copied Lego’s packaging and thus had engaged in copyright infringement. This decision came after China instituted a crackdown on intellectual property infringement. China might have wanted to fight frequent criticisms that they do not adequately protect foreign companies’ intellectual property.

These are just some of 2017’s fascinating news stories about intellectual property. We are all wondering what 2018 will bring.

Wishing our readers a safe and happy 2018.


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