Patents

Overview

Inventions, i.e. new, useful and inventive products, methods and uses, can be protected with patents.

We offer a full range of services related Canadian and foreign patents, including:

  • prior art searches and impact analysis on the patentability of inventions,
  • drafting, filing and prosecuting patent applications in Canada, the United States, Europe, at the international level (PCT) and abroad (over 130 countries),
  • research, analysis, and legal opinions regarding infringement, validity, freedom to operate as well as the state of the art, and
  • monitoring of new technologies.

We also offer IP advice and our services in litigation and arbitration and contracts, titles, and due diligence reviews related to patents.

We have a particular expertise in the following areas:

Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

  1. Can artificial intelligence be designated as an inventor in a patent application?

    Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the fact that this human invention can now generate its own inventions opens the door to new ways of conceptualizing the notion of “inventor” in patent law. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (“UK Supreme Court”) however found that an artificial intelligence system cannot be the author of an invention within the meaning of the applicable regulations under which patents are granted. This position is consistent with that of several courts around the world that have already ruled on the issue. But what of Canada, where the courts have yet to address the matter? In this bulletin, we will take a look at the decisions handed down by the UK Supreme Court and its counterparts in other countries before considering Canada’s position on the issue. In Thaler (Appellant) v Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Mark,1 the UK Supreme Court ruled that “an inventor must be a person”. Summary of the decision In 2018, Dr. Stephen Thaler filed patent applications for two inventions described as having been generated by an autonomous AI system. The machine in question, DABUS, was therefore designated as the inventor in the applications. Dr. Thaler claimed that, as the owner of DABUS, he was entitled to file patent applications for inventions generated by his machine. That being so, he alleged that he was not required to name a natural person as the inventor. Both the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal dismissed Dr. Thaler’s appeal from the decision of the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom not to proceed with the patent applications, in particular because the designated inventor was not valid under the Patents Act 1977. The UK Supreme Court, the country’s final court of appeal, also dismissed Dr. Thaler’s appeal. In a unanimous decision, it concluded that the law is clear in that “an inventor within the meaning of the 1977 Act must be a natural person, and DABUS is not a person at all, let alone a natural person: it is a machine”.2 Although there was no doubt that DABUS had created the inventions in question, that did not mean that the courts could extend the notion of inventor, as defined by law, to include machines. An ongoing trend The UK Supreme Court is not the first to reject Dr. Thaler’s arguments. The United States,3 the European Union4 and Australia5 have adopted similar positions, concluding that only a natural person can qualify as an inventor within the meaning of the legislation applicable in their respective jurisdictions. The UK ruling is part of the Artificial Inventor Project’s cross-border attempt to ensure that the DABUS machine—and AI in general—is recognized as a generative tool capable of generating patent rights for the benefit of AI system owners. To date, only South Africa has issued a patent to Dr. Thaler, naming DABUS as the inventor.6 This country is the exception that proves the rule. It should however be noted that the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission of South Africa does not review applications on their merits. As such, no reason was given for considering AI as the inventor. More recently, in February of this year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a guidance on AI-assisted inventions. The guidance confirms the judicial position and states in particular that “a natural person must have significantly contributed to each claim in a patent application or patent”.7 What about Canada? In 2020, Dr. Thaler also filed a Canadian patent application for inventions generated by DABUS.8 The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) issued a notice of non-compliance in 2021, establishing its initial position as follows: Because for this application the inventor is a machine and it does not appear possible for a machine to have rights under Canadian law or to transfer those rights to a human, it does not appear this application is compliant with the Patent Act and Rules.9 However, CIPO specified that it was open to receiving the applicant’s arguments on the issue, as follows: Responsive to the compliance notice, the applicant may attempt to comply by submitting a statement on behalf of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine and identify, in said statement, himself as the legal representative of the machine.10 To date, CIPO has issued no notice of abandonment and the application remains active. Its status in Canada is therefore unclear. It will be interesting to see whether Dr. Thaler will try to sway the Canadian courts to rule in his favour after many failed attempts in other jurisdictions around the world, and most recently in the UK Supreme Court. At first glance, the Patent Act11 (the “Act”) does not prevent an AI system from being recognized as the inventor of a patentable invention. In fact, the term “inventor” is not defined in the Act. Furthermore, nowhere is it stated that an applicant must be a “person,” nor is there any indication to that effect in the provisions governing the granting of patents. The Patent Rules12 offer no clarification in that regard either. The requirement implied by the clear use of the term “person” in the wording of the relevant sections of the law is important: It was a key consideration that the UK Supreme Court analyzed in Thaler. Case law on the subject is still ambiguous. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, given that the inventor is the person who took part in conceiving the invention, the question to ask is “[W]ho is responsible for the inventive concept?”13 That said, however, we note that the conclusion reached was that a legal person—as opposed to a natural person—cannot be considered an inventor.14 The fact is that the Canadian courts have never had to rule on the specific issue of recognizing AI as an inventor, and until such time as the courts render a decision or the government takes a stance on the matter, the issue will remain unresolved. Conclusion Given that Canadian law is not clear on whether AI can be recognized as an inventor, now would be a good time for Canadian authorities to clarify the issue. As the UK Supreme Court has suggested, the place of AI in patent law is a current societal issue, one that the legislator will ultimately have to settle.15 As such, it is only a matter of time before the Act is amended or CIPO issues a directive. Moreover, in addition to having to decide whether AI legally qualifies as an inventor, Canadian authorities will have to determine whether a person can be granted rights to an invention that was actually created by AI. The question as to whether an AI system owner can hold a patent on an invention generated by their machine was raised in Thaler. Once again, unlike the UK’s patent act,16 our Patent Act does not close the door to such a possibility. Canadian legislation contains no comprehensive list of the categories of persons to whom a patent may be granted, for instance. If we were to rewrite the laws governing intellectual property, given that the main purpose such laws is to encourage innovation and creativity, perhaps a better approach would be to allow AI system owners to hold patent rights rather than recognizing the AI as an inventor. Patent rights are granted on the basis of an implicit understanding: A high level of protection is provided in exchange for sufficient disclosure to enable a person skilled in the art to reproduce an invention. This ensures that society benefits from such inventions and that inventors are rewarded. Needless to say, arguing that machines need such an incentive is difficult. Designating AI as an inventor and granting it rights in that respect is therefore at odds with the very purpose of patent protection. That said, an AI system owner who has invested time and energy in designing their system could be justified in claiming such protection for the inventions that it generates. In such a case and given the current state of the law, the legislator would likely have to intervene. Would this proposed change spur innovation in the field of generative AI? We are collectively investing a huge amount of “human” resources in developing increasingly powerful AI systems. Will there come a time when we can no longer consider that human resources were involved in making AI-generated technologies? Should it come to that, giving preference to AI system owners could become counterproductive. In any event, for the time being, a sensible approach would be to emphasize the role that humans play in AI-assisted inventions, making persons the inventors rather than AI. As concerns inventions conceived entirely by an AI system, trade secret protection may be a more suitable solution. The professionals on our intellectual property team are at your disposal to assist you with patent registration and provide you with a clearer understanding of the issues involved. [2023] UKSC 49 [Thaler]. Ibid., para. 56. See the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Thaler v Vidal, 43 F. 4th 1207 (2022), application for appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States dismissed. See the decision of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office in J 0008/20 (Designation of inventor/DABUS) (2021), request to refer questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal denied. See the decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in Commissioner of Patents v Thaler, [2022] FCAFC 62, application for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia denied. ZA 2021/03242. Federal Register: Inventorship Guidance for AI-Assisted Inventions. CA 3137161. Notice from CIPO dated February 11, 2022, in Canadian patent application 3137161. Ibid. R.S.C., 1985, c. P-4. SOR/2019-251. Apotex Inc.v. Wellcome Foundation Ltd., 2002 SCC 77 at paras. 96–97. Sarnoff Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2008 FC 712, para. 9. Thaler, paras. 48–49, 79. Ibid., para. 79.

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  2. Implicit inducement of patent infringement – The Federal Court of Appeal hands down its ruling

    Can a patent be infringed even if the patented product is not manufactured, assembled, or even used?  Indeed, such infringement is possible. In fact, this is known as the theory of inducement of infringement. Naturally, acts of “inducement” must meet certain conditions before inducement of infringement can be found. The Federal Court of Appeal recently clarified these conditions. Inducing infringement and the applicable test For example, if the patented invention is a solution containing components A, B, and C of a drink where component C is water, it is likely that if components A and B are sold to a consumer and said consumer is told to add a certain amount of water, mix well, and drink, the consumer can be said to have been induced to infringe the patent. To determine whether inducement of infringement has occurred, the courts apply a three-prong test. First, the acts of infringement must have been completed by the direct infringer. In the previous example, this would be the consumer.  There can be no inducement of infringement if there has been no direct infringement. Second, the completion of the acts of infringement must be influenced by the acts of the alleged inducer to the point that, without the influence, direct infringement would not take place (for example, by selling the material and providing instructions). Third, influence must be knowingly exercised by the inducer; in other words, the inducer knows that this influence will result in the completion of the acts of infringement. The Federal Court case Returning to the Court of Appeal’s decision: in this case, Janssen had sued Apotex for inducing infringement of a patent.  An important point is that the patent on the drug had expired. However, Janssen claimed that Apotex was inducing physicians to prescribe the drug in combination with a specific inhibitor to treat a rare condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Janssen’s patent covers the combination of the drug and the inhibitor to treat PAH. Apotex would have sold the drug alone, without including the inhibitor or the combination, had Health Canada authorized its drug.1 Nowhere in the product monograph is it suggested that the drug be used in combination with the inhibitor in question. However, the drug was being prescribed to treat PAH. The parties agreed that the first prong of the test had been met, namely that the drug was likely to be prescribed with the inhibitor to treat PAH. It was the second and third prongs that were actually at issue: Could Apotex be inducing infringement even though its product monograph contains no suggestion for use in combination with the inhibitor in question? The Federal Court had concluded that the second and third prongs of the test for inducing infringement had been met. It ruled that the product monograph sufficiently influenced physicians to prescribe the drug in combination with the inhibitor, and that Apotex knew that marketing the drug along with the product monograph would influence physicians to prescribe it with the inhibitor. This reasoning is based primarily on a study cited in the product monograph, which showed that the drug, whether prescribed alone or with the inhibitor, was safe and effective.  The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision The Court of Appeal upheld the Federal Court’s decision, adding that influence need not be explicit. The Court thus affirmed that the absence of explicit instruction and of intention that direct infringement should result does not mean that there is no influence sufficient to satisfy the second prong. Therefore, while explicit instruction and intention may be relevant to assessing influence, they are not required. The Court of Appeal stated that: “Even without explicit reference to combination treatment, the Federal Court was entitled to find that the Apo-Macitentan PM would influence use of macitentan in that way.”2 With respect to the third prong, the Court of Appeal reiterated that the inducer must know that their actions or influence will lead another party to engage in specific activity, but that it is not necessary to prove that the inducer knows that such activity will constitute patent infringement.  The Court of Appeal upheld the conclusion that, in the circumstances, Apotex knew or should have known that the product monograph for its drug would influence physicians to prescribe it in combination with the inhibitor to treat PAH. Conclusion Implicit influence can lead to findings of patent infringement when it can be said that the inducer should have been aware of the consequences of their actions. This decision confirms that Canadian courts have a flexible legal tool to protect inventions. The text is in the conditional tense because the action was brought under the Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations, which establish specific rules regarding litigation in the pharmaceutical industry and prevent Health Canada from authorizing the sale of a generic version of a drug that would infringe certain patents in certain circumstances. Apotex Inc. v. Janssen Inc., 2023 FCA 220 (CanLII), para. 17.

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  3. Advancing Patent Fee Payments in Canada to Avoid Significant 2024 Fee Increases

    Canadian patent government fees will increase up to 36% on January 1, 2024. The main fee increases are presented in the table below. Applicants may therefore wish to take certain actions and pay the accompanying fees in Canada by the end of 2023 to benefit from the lower 2023 rates at least in the following circumstances: Early filing of divisional applications may be especially advantageous as they involve high government fees. Retroactive maintenance fees from the second anniversary onward of the parent case are payable when divisional applications are filed, along with the filing fee. Examination fees are also typically paid at divisional filing, as they generally need to be paid within three months of filing the divisional application.1 Applicants who intend to file the national phase of international patent applications in Canada can reduce filing cost by advancing national entry in 2023. Single or multiple future maintenance fees due in 2024 or later in each patent or patent application could be anticipated and paid in 2023. Finally, examination fees due in 2024 or later may also be anticipated in 2023 to benefit from the lower rate. CIPO Fee 2023* 2024* Filing fee $421.02 $555.00 Examination or request for continued examination (RCE) fee $816.00 $1,111.00 Excess claim fee for each claim over 20 $100.00 $110.00 Advanced examination fee $526.29 $694.00 Maintenance fee: 2nd to 4th anniversary $100.00 $125.00 Maintenance fee: 5th to 9th anniversary $210.51 $277.00 Maintenance fee: 10th to 14th anniversary $263.14 $347.00 Maintenance fee: 15th to 19th anniversary $473.65 $624.00 *Undiscounted fees applicable to applicants not eligible for small entity rate Divisional practice is very strict in Canada, in that divisional applications are generally only filed to pursue a non-elected invention that was identified in a lack of unity objection in the parent case.

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  4. Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO): Fee Increase

    CIPO has announced an increase in their fees as of January 1, 2024. Their current fees will be increased by at least 25%. This increase will apply not only to trademarks, but also to patents, industrial designs and copyrights. For example, the anticipated official fee to file an application for registration of a trademark is being increased from $347.35 to $458.00 for the first class, and from $105.26 to $139.00 for each additional class. A majority of CIPO’s other fees are subject to a similar adjustment. As such, this increase will have an impact not only upon filing an application for registration, but also during the registration process and upon renewal. We therefore recommend that you review your intellectual property portfolio to determine if new applications should be filed or renewals effected before the end of the year. CIPO indicates that the increase will contribute to supporting its strategy on intellectual property which is aimed at offering services comparable to those offered worldwide. We hope that it will also reduce turnaround times!

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  1. Lavery and its Intellectual Property group recognized in the 2024 edition of the WTR 1000: The World’s Leading Trademark Professionals

    We are pleased to announce that Lavery has been ranked in the 2024 edition of the WTR 1000: The World’s Leading Trademark Professionals. Four of our members have also been recognized as leaders in their respective areas of practice. Geneviève Bergeron Partner | Lawyer - Trademark Agent Geneviève’s practice focuses on all aspects of trademarks, intellectual property transactions, copyright and domain names. Her trademark expertise also includes litigation, such as opposition and cancellation proceedings, formal notices and the negotiation of coexistence and settlement agreements, as well as the drafting, negotiation and review of commercial contracts, such as licence and assignment agreements. Chantal Desjardins - Partner | Lawyer - Trademark Agent Chantal actively assists her clients in establishing their rights in the field of intellectual property, which includes the protection and defence of trademarks, industrial designs, copyright, domain names, trade secrets and other related forms of intellectual property, in order to further their business objectives. Isabelle Jomphe - Partner | Lawyer - Trademark Agent Isabelle’s expertise includes trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights, trade secrets and technology transfers, as well as advertising law and matters related to labelling and the Charter of the French Language. Suzanne Antal - Senior Trademark Agent Suzanne focuses her practice on all aspects of trademark registration, including drafting and filing trademark applications and representing clients in trademark opposition and cancellation proceedings, both nationally and internationally.  The WTR 1000 is a guide that identifies the top trademark professionals and law firms around the globe. The lawyers and law firms featured in this guide are selected further to a rigorous process involving research and interviews with practitioners, clients and in-house counsel. About Lavery Lavery is the leading independent law firm in Québec. Its more than 200 professionals, based in Montréal, Québec City, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières, work every day to offer a full range of legal services to organizations doing business in Québec. Recognized by the most prestigious legal directories, Lavery professionals are at the heart of what is happening in the business world and are actively involved in their communities. The firm's expertise is frequently sought after by numerous national and international partners to provide support in cases under Québec jurisdiction.

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  2. Lavery supports Domain Therapeutics in obtaining US $42M in financing

    On May 10, 2022, Domain Therapeutics, a Franco-Canadian biopharmaceutical corporation specializing in research and development of innovative immuno-oncology treatments, announced the close of a US $42 million Series A financing round. This investment is a major step in the Franco-Canadian firm’s growth that aims to provide cancer patients with treatment solutions to overcome GPCR-mediated immunosuppression mechanisms. Mr. Alain Dumont, a partner at Lavery, had the privilege of supporting the corporation through this important transaction. Throughout his long-standing relationship with Domain Therapeutics, Mr. Dumont has lent his expertise to protect the company’s technologies and innovations by answering questions from investors, in particular. Lavery is immensely proud of Mr. Dumont’s work in securing this funding. — Domain Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, based in France and Canada, is dedicated to discovering and developing novel medicine candidates targeting G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a key drug target class. The company focuses on producing high value-added immuno-oncology drug candidates.

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  3. Serge Shahinian is recognized as a leading patent practitioner in the 2021 IAM Patent 1000: The World’s Leading Patent Professionals

    Serge Shahinian, partner and patent agent in the firm’s Intellectual Property Group, has been recognized as a leading patent practitioner in the 2021 edition of the directory IAM Patent 1000: The World’s Leading Patent Professionals. This distinction was determined, among other things, through exhaustive peer-reviewed surveys. The professionals are ranked in the directory based on a recognition of market share, exceptional skills, and in-depth knowledge of patent matters.

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