Publications

Packed with valuable information, our publications help you stay in touch with the latest developments in the fields of law affecting you, whatever your sector of activity. Our professionals are committed to keeping you informed of breaking legal news through their analysis of recent judgments, amendments, laws, and regulations.

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  • Artificial intelligence soon to be regulated in Canada?

    For the time being, there are no specific laws governing the use of artificial intelligence in Canada. Certainly, the laws on the use of personal information and those that prohibit discrimination still apply, no matter if the technologies involved are so-called artificial intelligence technologies or conventional ones. However, the application of such laws to artificial intelligence raises a number of questions, especially when dealing with “artificial neural networks,” because the opacity of the algorithms behind these makes it difficult for those affected to understand the decision-making mechanisms at work. Such artificial neural networks are different in that they provide only limited explanations as to their internal operation. On November 12, 2020, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) published its recommendations for a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence.1 Pointing out that the use of artificial intelligence requiring personal information can have serious privacy implications, the OPC has made several recommendations, which involve the creation of the following, in particular: A requirement for those who develop such systems to ensure that privacy is protected in the design of artificial intelligence systems; A right for individuals to obtain an explanation, in understandable terms, to help them understand decisions made about them by an artificial intelligence system, which would also involve the assurance that such explanations are based on accurate information and are not discriminatory or biased; A right to contest decisions resulting from automated decision making; A right for the regulator to require evidence of the above. It should be noted that these recommendations include the possibility of imposing financial penalties on companies that would fail to abide by this regulatory framework. Moreover, contrary to the approach adopted in the General Data Protection Regulation and the Government of Quebec’s Bill 64, the rights to explanation and contestation would not be limited solely to automated decisions, but would also cover cases where an artificial intelligence system assists a human decision-maker. It is likely that these proposals will eventually provide a framework for the operation of intelligence systems already under development. It would thus be prudent for designers to take these recommendations into account and incorporate them into their artificial intelligence system development parameters as of now. Should these recommendations be adopted, it will also become necessary to consider how to explain the mechanisms behind the systems making or suggesting decisions based on artificial intelligence. As mentioned in these recommendations, “while trade secrets may require organizations to be careful with the explanations they provide, some form of meaningful explanation should always be possible without compromising intellectual property.”2 For this reason, it may be crucial to involve lawyers specializing in these matters from the start when designing solutions that use artificial intelligence and personal information. https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/about-the-opc/what-we-do/consultations/completed-consultations/consultation-ai/reg-fw_202011/ Ibid.

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  • Studios and designers: Are you sure that you own the intellectual property rights to your video games?

    The year 2020 will have been difficult for the vast majority of industries, and in particular for the arts, entertainment and recreation industry. The video game industry, however, is growing in leaps and bounds. For example, Nintendo and PlayStation have each set record sales for their games released in 2020, including Animal Crossing:New Horizons and The Last of UsPart II. Over the past few decades, the number of video game players has never stopped increasing.  The year 2020 will surely be no exception, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic.  Playing a video game is not only a way to have fun: it is also a way to stay connected with a community that shares the same interests. The world of video games is so popular that the Government of Canada teamed up with the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (“ESAC”) to launch the #CrushCOVID campaign, using ESAC’s and its members’ social media platforms to share mobilization and awareness messages about public health measures. The video game industry is an economic powerhouse in Canada. According to the latest ESAC report, the industry contributed an estimated $4.5 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2019 — up 20% from 20171 — and these figures will likely continue to rise. This video game boom has a decisive impact on the value of companies innovating in this field. A number of recent transactions illustrate this. For instance, last September, Microsoft acquired Bethesda Softworks, one of the largest video game publishers, for US$7.5 billion. Microsoft also bought the Swedish company Mojang Studios, which designed the legendary game Minecraft, for US$2.5 billion in 2014. Closer to home in Montreal, Beat Games was bought by Facebook following the launch of its virtual reality game, Beat Saber, while Typhoon Studios was bought by Google. A successful video game may be lucrative in various ways, between the sale of video games themselves and merchandising goods, such as clothing and accessories, figurines, as well as game-inspired TV series with giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO and Hulu, which are always on the lookout for hit TV series. Protecting its intellectual property (“IP”) on a video game is key to monetize all investment put into the development of a game. Doing so is even more crucial in the context where video game commercialization knows no borders, and a game can become an international success overnight. In short, any company should ask itself the following questions before launching its video game, to better position itself in relation to potential investors, licensees or partners, as well as competitors and counterfeiters: Does my company own all of the IP rights on the video game? What kind of IP protection applies and where should IP be protected? Let’s look at the first question. Does my company own all of the IP rights on the video game? Designing a video game usually involves a team of creators, including ideators, programmers, writers, visual and sound effects designers. All these people contribute to the creation of the work that is the video game and the underlying IP. For instance, Ubisoft worked with muralists and graphic designers for its recent game, Watch Dogs: Legion. They designed nearly 300 works to create a post-Brexit urban London. The initiative earned Ubisoft praise even before the game’s release last October.2 Depending on their contribution to the game’s design and their status as employees or consultants, these creators may qualify as authors. As such, they may be considered co-owners of the copyright on the video game. Generally, the copyrights developed by employees in the course of their employment belong to the employer,3 while a consultant remains the owner of the copyrights, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing. Thus, a company behind a video game must make sure that its consultants assigns their IP rights to ensure that it retains full ownership of the copyright. What happens if a consultant has not assigned the copyrights to the company? Can the consultant claim co-ownership of the entire game, or are the consultant’s rights limited to the part he created, such as specific drawings, or music for a particular scene? This is an important question which may have an impact on profit sharing. In Seggie c. Roofdog Games Inc.,4the Superior Court held that a person (non-employee) whose contribution to a game is minimal cannot be considered as a co-author of the entire video game, insofar as: The contribution is limited to a few images; These images are distinguishable from the rest of the work; and The parties had no common intention of creating a collaborative work. Seggie was therefore denied the compensation of 25% of the profits generated by the game that he had claimed. However, the court recognized that Seggie held a copyright on the works he specifically created and which were incorporated into the game, and granted him a compensation of $10,000. Incidentally, this compensation is in our opinion arguable, given that Seggie had agreed to work pro bono for his friend. This decision shows how important it is to have a copyright assignment signed by any person contributing to the conception of a work, regardless of the extent of their involvement. Waiver of moral rights In addition to the assignment of copyrights, the company owning a video game should also ensure that the authors sign a waiver of their moral rights, so as not to limit the potential to modify the game or to associate it with another product or a cause. Indeed, the authors of a work have moral rights that enable them to oppose the use of their work in connection with another product or a cause, service or institution to the prejudice of their honour or reputation. An example would be the use of music or a character from a video game to promote a cause or product, or a television series derived from the game whose script could potentially harm the author’s reputation. To make sure you have plenty of leeway to exploit the commercial potential of the game, a waiver of moral rights should be signed by any employee and consultant involved in the creation of the video game. Conclusion Launching a video game requires a huge investment in terms of resources, time and creativity. In order to develop an effective protection strategy, the first step is to make sure that you own all rights. Then, you are in a position to fully protect and enjoy your IP rights. The next article in this series will discuss the significance and application of these IP rights—i.e., trademarks, copyrights and patents—to the video game industry. “The Canadian Video Game Industry 2019,” Entertainment Software Association of Canada, November 2019, [online]. CLÉMENT, Éric, “Le talent montréalais en vedette dans un nouveau jeu d’Ubisoft,” published in La Presse+, October 21, 2020, edition. Copyright Act, subsection 13(3). Seggie c. Roofdog Games Inc., 2015 QCCS 6462.

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  • Work, Lockdown and Curfew: Answers to Your Questions

    In order to reduce community transmission and preserve everyone’s safety and that of our healthcare system, the government requires everyone to make extra efforts, both in their private lives and at work. The closure of retail businesses, save for some exceptions, is maintained, the lockdown to prevent gatherings continues and a curfew was added on January 9, 2021, to remain in effect until the currently announced date of February 8, 20211. How can employers review their work organization to the extent possible for them while complying with government guidelines? Here are a few questions and answers to clarify the situation. With the curfew in effect, do I need to review my work organization and schedules if my activities are not suspended or prohibited? If you operate an essential retail business, you are required to review your employees’ schedules and work hours in order to abide by the curfew and allow your employees to leave your business no later than 7:30 p.m. in order to be home by 8 p.m. Companies in the construction, manufacturing and primary processing industries must reduce their activities “to pursue only those activities necessary to fulfil their commitments” (our translation): To properly measure the scope of this requirement, the guidelines and directives issued by the authorities (including CNESST) must be closely followed. However, on the basis of this statement in the Decree adopted on the evening of January 8, 2021, in order to be able to demonstrate the steps taken to comply with directives, companies should review confirmed contracts and orders, agreed-upon delivery dates and inherent production delays to modify work planning (e.g. priority orders to be delivered by February 8, 2021, staff work days and hours, evening and night shifts). In its online communications, the Government of Quebec asks not only that activities be reduced to a minimum to complete commitments, but also that shifts be adjusted to limit the staff present at any time on production and construction sites. Businesses in this situation may require special negotiations to make the necessary adjustments given working conditions, policies or collective agreements in place. When should I consider temporary layoffs due to a reduction in my activities as a result of the increased lockdown or curfew? Subject to the provisions of a collective agreement or employment contract (e.g. guaranteed hours of work), an employer may consider reorganizing work and allocating working hours among employees by coming to an agreement on temporary working conditions with them to avoid layoffs. If such an agreement is not possible for legal, organizational or efficiency reasons, layoffs may be considered: With confirmation of the layoffs as being related to COVID-19, in which case concerned employees can verify their eligibility for the Canada Recovery Benefit or EI benefits depending on the circumstances. An employer should also document the reasons behind temporary layoffs and, for example, in its determination of who is affected according to the organization’s applicable criteria, for recall purposes and analysis of whether or not extending such layoffs is necessary. How do I protect my essential employees who would have to travel during curfew to get to work or return home? For each employee required to travel during the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, the employer must prepare an explanatory letter (attestation letter) as evidence that the employer’s activities are authorized under the applicable directives and that the employee’s work is essential to carrying out authorized activities (this includes transporting goods required for such activities). The attestation letter must include information that could reasonably lead the police to conclude that the employee is allowed to travel during the curfew because that employee qualifies for one of the exceptions provided by the government. Exceptions are known to be interpreted restrictively. On the basis of the form letter issued by the government and the purpose of the attestation letter, this letter should include information such as: The name of the employer and its authorized representative (with letterhead confirming the company’s contact information, including its website). The nature of the employer’s activities. The employee’s duties, home address and work contact information. The employee’s work schedule. The contact information and telephone number of the person available between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. to provide details to police officers who may stop the employee (this person must be familiar with the employer’s authorized activities involving the employee as well as the employee’s position and schedule). The validity period of the attestation and its date of signature. I operate a retail business that is not identified as an authorized priority business since December 25, 2020. Can I operate and sell goods online and how can my customers retrieve their purchases? E-commerce is allowed, even for non-essential goods (sales can also be completed by phone). The key points: Telework should be maximized as much as possible, with physical presence being limited to only  those employees whose presence is essential to the workplace. Goods can be delivered or picked up at the door without entering a store. Payment must be made by telephone if a sale is made in this way and without the customer entering the business. We will follow developments and keep you informed as it is important to keep track of possible—and often frequent changes and adjustments brought to the directives. The professionals of our Labour and Employment team are available to advise you and answer your questions. See https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/confinement-in-quebec/ and the January 8, 2021, Order in Council 2-2021 Ordering of measures to protect the health of the population amid the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

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  • The tax system to the rescue of print media

    Canadian newspapers’ loss of advertising revenues to the hands of internet giants over the past several years has jeopardized the very existence of many such newspapers. In 2018, our governments announced several advantageous tax measures in order to ensure the survival of independent print media. In 2019, two favourable tax statuses were added to the Income Tax Act1 (Canada) (the “ITA”)—that of qualified Canadian journalism organization (“QCJO”) and registered journalism organization (“RJO”). The statuses of QCJO and RJO offer the following advantages under the ITA: A 25% refundable labour tax credit for salaries or wages payable in respect of an eligible newsroom employee, effective January 1, 2019; A 15% non-refundable personal income tax credit to allow individuals to claim digital news subscription costs paid to a qualifying organization after 2019 and before 2025 The addition of RJOs as qualified donees. The qualified donee status allows an entity to issue donation receipts, and thus allows any person donating money or property to an RJO to benefit from a tax credit or deduction in the calculation of their taxable income. In addition, the status of RJO allows an entity to receive donations from other entities with a favourable tax status, such as a registered charity;2 An exemption from income tax levied under the ITA. An entity must meet several conditions to obtain the statuses of QCJO and RJO, and the application process can take several months. Obviously, having these statuses involves other federal and provincial tax consequences that must be assessed on a case-by-case basis before making such a request to the tax authorities. Our taxation team is experienced in this area of law and can help you to obtain the statuses of QCJO and RJO and assess the tax consequences involved. Subsections 149.1(1) and 248(1) of the Income Tax Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 1 (5thsuppl.); Subsection 248(1), ITA “registered charity”.

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  • Ho-Ho Holiday Themed Patents

     At Lavery, we spend a lot of time searching patent databases on behalf of our clients. Occasionally, we come across certain patents/applications whose cleverness and creativity make a lasting impression. At this time of year, our attention is naturally drawn to those that are holiday themed. And so, in the spirit of the holidays, we thought it would be nice to share some of them with you. We hope that the following examples can help lift your spirits (or at least make you smile). CA 2500690 (application): Christmas tree watering system This setup is likely easier to use by those in the health-care sector. CA 2114854 (application): Santa claws No family member is left behind these holidays—here is a stocking to hang by the fireplace for Santa to leave some treats for your special pet.    US 20200329896 (application): Christmas tree with blades rotated by wind power This application is for a Christmas tree that has a “blade unit” that is mounted to a pole and is detachable. The blades are rotated around the pole by means of natural wind power, “thereby improving the fun of the Christmas tree.” US 6497071: Christmas tree self-watering system This patent is for an “improved watering system for a Christmas tree,” where the Christmas tree's watering basin can be refilled by filling up a nearby water-resistant container. The clever twist? The water-resistant container is disguised as a Christmas present.   US 7258592: Santa Claus visit kit This patent is for a kit for creating an illusion that suggests Santa Claus visited a home. The claimed kit includes items such as “a letter professing to be from Santa Claus” and the “means for making boot prints.” The patent even discloses a rather complicated set of instructions, with steps such as “removing a portion of the drink and/or snack” and, if your home has no chimney, “leaving a toy key outside.”    US 5523741: Santa Claus Detector This patent was for a “children's Christmas Stocking device useful for visually signalling the arrival of Santa Claus by illuminating an externally visible light source having power source located within said device.” Santa Claus is described as “a plump, white-bearded and red-suited gentleman who delivers presents to ‘good’ children at Christmas time.” US 3494235: Devices for dispensing tinsel and the like adaptable for decorating Christmas trees Faster decorating for sure—a gun-shaped device for dispensing tinsel.   All the best wishes for a patently wonderful holiday season!

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  • Insurer's Duty to Defend: Bill 82 Opens the Door to Possible Limitations

    On December 11, 2020, the Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, introduced and tabled Bill 82 entitled An Act respecting mainly the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 10 March 2020 (hereinafter the “Bill”) before the National Assembly.  The Bill opens the door to possible limitations on the duty to defend with respect to certain categories of liability insurance contracts to be determined by regulation. Background The Civil Code of Quebec (“C.C.Q.”) provides in articles 2500 and 2503 C.C.Q. that the insurance limits provided for in liability insurance contracts and the costs resulting from actions against the insured, including those associated with the defence, are borne by the insurer in excess of these limits. Since these provisions are of public order, the parties to the contract cannot agree to the contrary and the insurer's obligation to pay these defence costs is practically unlimited. The increase in the frequency and size of claims, as well as the explosion in costs associated with the defence of insureds, have contributed to a hardening of the market since 2019.  In such a market, insurance companies are applying stricter pricing and demanding higher premiums. In some cases, some insurers are withdrawing completely from the market or from certain industries, creating real difficulties for many companies. The absence of a possible limitation on the insurers' duty to defend, a principle specific to Quebec, was likely to make this market less attractive to national and international insurers. Proposed legislative change The Bill provides that the insurers' duty to defend under articles 2500 and 2503 C.C.Q. may be limited with respect to certain liability insurance contracts that will be determined by regulation. If the proposed amendment is accepted in its present form, the new article 2503 C.C.Q. will henceforth read as follows: 2503. The insurer is bound to take up the interest of any person entitled to the benefit of the insurance and assume his defence in any action brought against him. Legal costs and expenses resulting from actions against the insured, including those of the defence, and interest on the proceeds of the insurance are borne by the insurer over and above the proceeds of the insurance. However, the Government may, by regulation, determine categories of insurance contracts that may depart from those rules and from the rule set out in article 2500, as well as classes of insureds that may be covered by such contracts. The Government may also prescribe any standard applicable to those contracts  [Emphasis added] This amendment has no practical impact in the short term since a regulation will have to be adopted to specify the contracts that may be subject to this limitation. We anticipate that the legislator will first target more special classes of liability insurance contracts, often purchased by more sophisticated insureds, such as Directors and Officers liability insurance contracts. Nevertheless, this is a significant step forward that will undoubtedly stimulate the interest of certain specialized insurers for Quebec risks. Upcoming steps The Bill, although tabled, must go through several stages before the proposed amendment becomes law. Even if the Bill could be assented to in the coming months, a regulation giving effect to the new paragraph of article 2503 C.C.Q. will also have to be drafted and passed. We will therefore continue to monitor the progress of this legislative matter.

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  • The Court of Appeal Adds a Few More Shades to Canada’s Grey Market

    In Canada, as elsewhere in the world, intellectual property owners have made numerous attempts to control their distribution channels through trademark law, copyright law, or exclusive contracts, without much success. However, in a recent decision (Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd.,1 hereinafter referred to as “Costco”), the Court of Appeal of Quebec found that Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. had committed the fault of contractual interference in a situation involving the grey market, also known as “grey marketing.” This decision calls into question a long series of decisions on the legality of the grey market and the principle of free competition, which is well established in Quebec law.2 The grey market is defined as follows: Goods that are imported contrary to the wishes of the copyright holder or an authorized importer in a specific territory. It refers to goods which, as a general rule, are legitimately marketed in the foreign market, but whose presence in the local market is clouded by allegations of infringement. For this reason it is referred to as the ‘grey market’ in contrast to the black market, in which copyright is infringed, and the white market, where there is no copyright infringement.1 The Court of Appeal for Ontario recently confirmed that grey marketing is a legal way of buying genuine branded products abroad and reselling them in competition with a local distributor of the foreign manufacturer.3 In Costco, Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd. (“Simms”) imported and distributed high-end clothing to retailers in Canada. In 2006, Simms entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Rock & Republic Enterprise Inc. (“R & R”) for the distribution of R & R’s denim line, ready-to-wear clothing, and accessories. R & R jeans were not only high-end; they were also in high demand, selling for between $250 and $325 a pair. In November 2009, Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. (“Costco”) was approached by a distributor who offered to sell it R & R jeans at a very low price. The evidence shows that R & R knew that those jeans would end up in the Canadian market— R & R would sell to a first distributor who would then sell to a second distributor, who would in turn sell to Costco. Thus, Costco bought R & R jeans through two intermediaries and offered them to its customers for $98.99. Simms sent a formal notice to Costco demanding that it cease selling the R & R jeans, alleging that it was the exclusive distributor and that the jeans Costco was selling were counterfeit. After checking with its distributor, Costco received a letter from R & R confirming that the jeans were genuine products. Costco’s distributor added that R & R “are already dealing with the mad distributor” and asked Costco to “please [not] release this letter to the distributor”.4 With this letter in hand, Costco answered Simms that the jeans were genuine products acquired on the grey market, and that it was entitled to sell them in Canada. In July 2010, Simms sent a second formal notice to Costco, reiterating that it had exclusive distribution rights to R & R jeans in Canada. Simms then instituted proceedings against R & R and Costco, but R & R filed for bankruptcy. At trial, the Superior Court judge held Costco liable for damage caused to Simms as of November 2009, when it had received the first formal notice.5 According to the judge, Costco chose to ignore the existence of the exclusive distribution agreement between Simms and R & R, adopting a position of wilful blindness, whereas it should have inferred, based on its distributor’s behaviour, that an exclusive distribution agreement did indeed exist and that R & R was breaching it. Costco was ordered to pay the sum of $361,005.44 in damages to Simms. Costco was also ordered to pay exemplary punitive damages of $500,000.00 as a result of the gravity of its fault of contractual interference and the effect on Simms’ reputation on the Canadian market. The Court of Appeal of Quebec upheld the Superior Court’s decision and held Costco liable. Contractual interference and the notion of fault In Quebec civil law, under the principle of relativity of contracts, contractual obligations and undertakings may bind only the contracting parties. The fault of contractual interference is an exception to this principle. In the 1975 decision Trudel v. Clairol,6 which dealt with a form of grey market, the Supreme Court of Canada defined the fault of contractual interference as “an act of dishonesty to be associated knowingly with a breach of contract.”7 Simply put, to justify granting remedy for contractual interference, a plaintiff must show: “The existence of a contract and valid contractual obligations that the third party allegedly contravened”;8 “The constituent elements of the fault of a third party,” which are: “the third party’s knowledge of the contractual rights; incitement to or participation in the breach of the contractual obligations; and bad faith or disregard for the interests of others.”9 In Costco, the Court of Appeal specified that “receipt of a copy of the contract by the third party or even that the exclusivity clause was read by the third party”10 is not required to find that the third party committed a fault, and that the analysis of the third party’s knowledge of the contract is contextual.11 In this regard, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the formal notice of November 2009 was not ambiguous, given that Simms’ assertion that it was the exclusive distributor of R & R products was “clear and require[d] no interpretation”.12 It added that Costco’s conduct was not that of a normally prudent and diligent person, and that it had adopted a position of wilful blindness by continuing to sell R & R jeans even though R & R’s letter concerning its rights was not signed and predated the request for confirmation. In the Court of Appeal’s opinion, these facts combined with the formal notice should have been sufficient to conclude that there was indeed a breach of contract.13 Although the Court of Appeal concluded that the trial judge did not impose an additional burden on Costco to inform itself,14 the introduction of the notion of “wilful blindness” makes the situation highly subjective. The Superior Court judge wrote: [186] Costco relies on the fact that they were dealing with a trusted intermediary. Costco has filed no evidence that it was ever advised that, in fact, R & R had “resolved promptly” the matter with Simms. Accordingly, there was no reason for Costco to believe it could ignore the cease and desist letters. [187] Costco allowed itself to limit its focus to the issue of authenticity of the Product despite being put on notice by Simms that the up-front issue with Simms was the EDA (Exclusive Distribution Agreement). If Costco was not prepared to deal directly with Simms to resolve the issue, it needed to have the issue of the EDA asked and answered by R & R. Costco failed to do either. [188] […] Ms. Janek on behalf of Costco was at fault in not seeking: (a) some confirmation emanating from R & R that they knew the goods were being sold in Canada by Costco and (b) that there was no Simms EDA that would prevent such sales. […] 15 [Our emphasis] The Court of Appeal appears to agree with the trial judge’s reasoning. Echoing the Superior Court’s analysis quoted above, the Court explained: [61] Not only did Costco not obtain the confirmations demanded by Ms. Janek, it also chose to ignore information it received indicating that Simms was the exclusive Canadian distributor of R & R products [...].16 Even though no duty to inquire exists, Costco was criticized for having settled for questionable answers to its request for confirmation from the distributor and R & R that the goods were genuine and that they could be sold in Canada.   Would the ruling have been different if Costco had only asked R & R to confirm that the goods in question were genuine, while also asking its distributor whether it was bound by a contractual obligation not to sell in Canada?  If the answer is yes, the Court of Appeal’s conclusions make little sense. If, as the Court of Appeal stated, Costco had no duty to inquire, its mistake was to have inquired to R & R directly about Costo’s right to sell the jeans in Canada and it actually would have been preferable for it to ask as few questions as possible.  If a minimal duty to inquire had indeed existed, what should Costco have done? The Superior Court judge concluded on the basis of facts proven at trial that Costco should have obtained a letter signed by the owner of the trademarks in question confirming or denying Simms’ exclusive rights. The Court of Appeal appears to agree, adding that: [66] There is no question here of ambiguity or interpretation regarding Simms’ exclusivity that would have prevented Costco from understanding its scope or extent, but only of Costco’s knowledge of its existence.17 Thus, the Costco decision seems to create a duty to inquire that must be fulfilled to avoid a fault of contractual interference. However, the scope of this duty remains vague. Free competition and the grey market If such duty to inquire is interpreted broadly, it would be possible for an intellectual property right holder to arrange its distribution network in such a way as to make it difficult for a third party to claim ignorance of contractual restrictions with respect to exclusivity in a given territory. At trial, Costco alleged that the R & R jeans that it was selling at a low price had been legitimately acquired on the grey market and that it was entitled to sell them. With respect to the grey market, in Consumers Distributing Co. v. Seiko18 the Supreme Court explained that “[t]he concepts of restraint of trade and free competition [...] would be battered because of an implied recognition of a right of an individual marketing a product to entail and control the sale of identical personal property, however legitimately acquired, of another person.”19 In the present case, the Superior Court determined that Costco could not exonerate itself by alleging its right to purchase and resell grey market goods, as the contract between R & R and Simms was a juridical fact that was opposable to Costco.20 Did the particular facts of this case affect both the outcomes in Superior Court and the Court of Appeal? Certainly, but given that a contract is a juridical fact that is opposable to third parties; that such third parties have a form of duty to inquire about such juridical facts; and that one cannot be wilfully blind, the combination of these decisions seems to give greater weight to honouring contracts than to the principle of free competition.21 Is this a particularity of Quebec civil law (as opposed to common law)? How far does the duty to inquire go following the receipt of a formal notice? What degree of ambiguity is required for a party to claim that it has no knowledge of contractual obligations? The Canadian Courts will likely have to shed more light on the various legal shades of grey in the coming years. 2020 QCCA 1331. Free competition is a well-established principle in civil law. In Excelsior (L’), compagnie d’assurance-vie c. Mutuelle du Canada (La), compagnie d’assurance vie, the Court of Appeal recognized free competition as [TRANSLATION] “a fundamental principle to the organization of economic activities [...] subject to its legislative or regulatory framework.” Thus, competition is unique in that it can voluntarily cause harm to others without constituting a fault. Competition is only considered a fault if it is illicit or unfair; that is, if dishonest practices are used. Excelsior (L’), compagnie d’assurance-vie c. Mutuelle du Canada (La), compagnie d’assurance vie, [1992] R.J.Q. 2666 (C.A.), p. 30. Mars Canada Inc. v. Bemco Cash & Carry Inc., 2016 ONSC 7201, para. 7; conf. 2018 ONCA 239. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 18. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd. c. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., 2017 QCCS 5058. [1975] 2 SCR 236. Id., p. 241. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 51. Id. para. 50. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 57. Id. Id. para. 58. Id. para. 64; Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd. c. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., supra, note 6, para. 181 to 183. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 64. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd. c. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., supra note 6, para. 186–188. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 61. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. c. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd., supra note 1, para. 66. 1984 1 SCC 583. Id., p. 584. Simms Sigal & Co. Ltd. c. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., supra note 6, para. 94 and 214. Excelsior (L’), compagnie d’assurance-vie c. Mutuelle du Canada (La), compagnie d’assurance vie, [1992] R.J.Q. 2666 (C.A.), p. 30.

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  • Use of patents in artificial intelligence: What does the new CIPO report say?

    Artificial intelligence is one of the areas of technology where there is currently the most research and development in Canada. To preserve Canada's advantageous position in this area, it is important to consider all forms of intellectual property protection that may apply. Although copyright has historically been the preferred form of intellectual property in computer science, patents are nevertheless very useful in the field of artificial intelligence. The monopoly they grant can be an important incentive to foster innovation. This is why the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) felt the need to report on the state of artificial intelligence and patents in Canada. In its report titled Processing Artificial Intelligence: Highlighting the Canadian Patent Landscape published in October 2020, CIPO presents statistics that clearly demonstrate the upward trend in patent activity by Canadian researchers in the area of artificial intelligence. However, this increase remains much less marked than those observed in the United States and China, the champions in the field. Nevertheless, Canada ranked sixth in the world in the number of patented inventions attributed to Canadian researchers and institutions. International patent activity in AI between 1998 et 2017 Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Industry, 2020   International patent activity by assignee's country of origin in AI between 1998 and 2017 Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Industry, 2020   Canadian researchers are particularly specialized in natural language processing, which is not surprising for a bilingual country. But their strengths also lie in knowledge representation and reasoning, and in computer vision and robotics. We can also see that, generally speaking, the most active areas of application for artificial intelligence in Canada are in life sciences and medicine and computer networks, followed by energy management, in particular. This seems to be a natural fit for Canada, a country with well-developed healthcare systems and telecommunications and energy infrastructure that reflects its vast territory. The only shortcoming is the lack of representation of women in artificial intelligence patent applications in Canada. This is an important long-term issue, since maintaining the country's competitiveness will necessarily require ensuring that all the best talent is involved in the development of artificial intelligence technology in Canada. Regardless of which of these fields you work in, it may be important to consult a patent agent early in the invention process, particularly to ensure optimal protection of your inventions and to maximize the benefits for Canadian institutions and businesses. Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team!

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  • Teleworking: What are the allowable expenses for employees and tax impacts for employers?

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canadian workplaces. For many organizations, the pandemic and its containment measures have fast-tracked the shift to teleworking.  In this context, the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) and the Agence du Revenu du Québec (the“ARQ”) have published administrative positions regarding deductible expenses for employees working from home as well as for their employers. Eligible expenses for an EMPLOYEE The first condition for claiming employment expenses related to teleworking involves being obliged to work from home. The CRA has announced some flexibility in this regard, to the effect that if an employer did not require an employee to work from home but gave them the option to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRA will consider the employee to have worked from home as a result of the pandemic. Temporary flat rate method: Federal and Quebec deduction of $2 per day without Form T2200 On December 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that employees who worked from home more than 50% of the time for at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 will be able to deduct $2 from their incomefor each day worked during that period and for each additional day worked outside that period, for a maximum of $400. The temporary flat rate method only applies to the 2020 taxation year. To qualify, the employee must only deduct only home office expenses and no other employment expenses. Details of expenses incurred for with teleworking or Form T2200 will not be required to claim this deduction. On December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec followed the Government of Canada’s lead by announcing that taxpayers would be allowed to deduct $2 per day for each day worked from home, up to a maximum of $400, without supporting documents or a TP-64.3 form. Detailed method In general, an employee (whether a tenant or a homeowner) may deduct reasonable expenses directly related to the use of space in the home for work if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is met: (i)             The space devoted to work in the home is “the place where the individual principally (interpreted by the courts to be more than 50% of the time) performs the office or employment duties”; or  (ii)            The workspace in the home is “used exclusively [...] to earn income from the office or employment and, on a regular and continuous basis, for meeting customers or other persons in the ordinary course of performing the office or employment duties.”[1] The period used to assess eligibility criteria for 2020 must be at least four consecutive weeks. This period may last more than a month. If the workspace is part of a residence rented by the individual, a reasonable portion of the rent may be deductible. However, an individual may not claim any deduction for the rental value of the workspace in a home owned by the individual or for amortization, taxes, insurance or mortgage interest in respect of that home. Notwithstanding the above restrictions, the Income Tax Act provides that employees remunerated by commissions may deduct a reasonable portion of the taxes and insurance paid for the home they own, if one of the above criteria is met. It is important to note that these expenses are eligible only to the extent that they are not otherwise reimbursed by the employer. In order to determine the amount that can be deducted in this way, it is important to use a reasonable basis for calculation.For example, the calculation can be based on the area of the workspace in proportion to the total area of the home. Other possible uses of space must also be considered. The use of 100% compared to 75% of the space by an employee is an important factor in the calculation. For example, a kitchen table used as office space by an employee will have mixed use, which will have a direct impact on the amount of deductible expenses. Eligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Electricity Heating Water Utility portion (electricity, heat and water) of the employee’s condominium fees Home internet service costs Maintenance and minor repair costs Rent paid for the house or apartment where the employee lives Eligible expenses(employees remunerated by commission only) Home insurance Property taxes   Rental of a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, fax machine, etc. that is reasonably related to commission income Ineligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Mortgage interest Mortgage payments Internet connection fees Furniture Capital expenses (replacement of windows, floors, furnace, etc.) Wall decorations Note that if an employee can deduct an expense in calculating taxable income for income tax purposes, they may also qualify for a refund of the Goods and Services Tax / Quebec Sales Tax (“GST/QST”) paid. GST and QST refunds are taxable and must be included in the employee’s income tax return the following year. It is also important for the employee to keep supporting documents. The CRA recently developed an expense calculator to simplify calculating eligible expenses. An employee will have to complete the following forms to deduct expenses and obtain GST and QST refunds: a)    T777 – Statement of Employment Expenses; b)    TP-59 – Employment Expenses of Salaried Employees; c)     GST370 – GST/HST Rebate Application; and d)    VD-358 – QST Rebate for Employees. In order to deduct employment expenses from income, including certain expenses related to space devoted to working from home, the employee must have received two forms from the employer: a)    Form T2200 - Declaration of Conditions of Employment (“T2200”); and b)    Form TP-64.3 General Employment Conditions (“TP-64.3”) (Quebec employee only). Considerations for the employer On December 15, 2020, the CRA announced the launch of a simplified process to claim home office expenses for the 2020 tax year. Accordingly, a simplified version of Form T2200 was made available as Form T2200S. The form may be found here. In order for an employee to be able to deduct the expenses described above, Form T2200S must indicate: If the employee worked at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic; If the employer reimbursed or will reimburse the employee for some of the home office expenses; and If the amount was included on the employee’s T4 slip. Finally, the employer will have to certify that “this employee worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19, and was required to pay some or all their own home office expenses used directly in their work while carrying out their duties of employment during that period.” It is expected that a large number of employees will meet the criteria for this deduction, at least as long as the workplace access restrictions attributable to COVID-19 remain in place. The ARQ, for its part, has announced that, exceptionally, an electronic signature of the employer on the TP-64.3 form would be permitted. In addition, on December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced that it will launch, in early 2021, an online service for generating a large number of TP-64.3 forms to be sent to teleworkers. This service aims to reduce the administrative burden on medium and large companies. More information on the online platform is expected in 2021. Other eligible expenses for an employee An employee will also be able to deduct certain expenses for supplies consumed directly in the course of their duties to the extent that they are not reimbursed by the employer, such as: a)    Paper, pencils and ink cartridges; b)    Internet costs, if they are charged based on usage. To this end, the CRA has announced that for the 2020 taxation year, it will exceptionally accept monthly residential internet service costs (the cost of the plan must be reasonable). Expenses reimbursed by an employer Normally, an amount received from an employer to reimburse an expense is considered a benefit to the employee and must be added to the employee’s employment income, unless such expenses are necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties. Employees may not deduct reimbursed expenses. In addition, in the current context, the CRA and the ARQ have announced that the reimbursement of $500 by an employer to an employee to offset the cost of acquiring personal computer equipment or office equipment required for telework does not constitute a taxable benefit to the employee. For example, if the purchase is a $1,000 desk, the taxable benefit included in the employee’s income will be $500. The CRA has recently announced that this amount will not be increased. Allowance paid by an employer Some employers will prefer to pay an allowance directly to their employees who are teleworking to cover the additional costs they incur. In this context, the employer will be able to deduct this allowance in the calculation of its taxable income, provided that it is a reasonable amount. Normally, the amount of this allowance will be treated as a taxable benefit to the employee and will have to be included in employment income for the taxation year in which the employee receives it, except in the situation covered by the exception mentioned above. Other considerations for the employer It is also important for the employer to consider the tax implications—particularly with respect to source deductions—of the location where the employee primarily works during the pandemic if it differs from the location of the employer’s establishment where they normally report for work.  The CRA and the ARQ have announced relief in this respect for the 2020 taxation year. For example, the province of work will not change for employees who work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The province for the purpose of calculating source deductions will continue to be the province of the normal place of work. However, if the employee performs their work in a foreign country, certain tax implications for both the employee and the employer should be considered. Lavery’s tax law team can guide you and answer your questions regarding your company’s tax compliance. Technical interpretation IT-352R2.

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  • International tax planning endorsed by the Court

    In the recent decision in Agracity Ltd. v. The Queen1, the Tax Court of Canada (the “Court”) endorsed the Canadian tax consequences of business transactions between a Canadian corporation (“Agracity”) and its Barbados affiliate (“NewAgco-Barbados”) within a group of companies operating in the agrochemical industry (the “Group”). NewAgco-Barbados is an offshore company established for the purpose of negotiating and purchasing a particular herbicide (the “Herbicide”) internationally for resale in Canada. All of NewAgco-Barbados’s profits were generated by the resale of the Herbicide, which were subject to Barbados’s low tax rate. Agracity was in charge of receiving and filling orders for the Herbicide from Canadian consumers, under a service agreement with NewAgco-Barbados for the logistics, storage and transportation of the Herbicide from abroad to Canadian consumers. The Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) attempted to allocate all of NewAgco-Barbados’s profits to Agracity, relying primarily on sham transaction rules and secondarily on transfer pricing rules under subsection 247(2) of the Income Tax Act2 (the “Act”). The Court held that the negotiation and procurement of the Herbicide by NewAgco-Barbados constituted a legitimate commercial objective and a genuine function within the Group. It ruled in favour of Agracity in this case and confirmed that the transactions between Agracity and NewAgco-Barbados were not deceptive and did not warrant any adjustment to Agracity’s profits under transfer pricing rules. This case sheds new light on how to interpret the business role of foreign subsidiaries and the limits of the CRA’s remedial authority with respect to transfer pricing provided for in the Act, making it easier for domestic businesses to implement international business structures. When properly set up and operated, these structures can provide substantial tax savings.  The decision in Agracity v. The Queen has not been appealed. Our taxation team can assist you with national and international tax planning for your business transactions.   2020 CCI 91 R.S.C. 1985, c. 1 (5th suppl.);

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  • Canadian Patents: What to Keep in Mind One Year After the Coming into Force of the New Rules?

    The first anniversary of the entry into force of the new Canadian Patent Rules, which significantly changed certain practices surrounding the filing and prosecution of patent applications in Canada, is an opportunity to look back at the major changes that have had a significant impact on Canadian patent practice. Indeed, the past year has allowed us to observe the changes, which in certain aspects seem to be confusing for patent applicants, and to observe their effect in practical terms. We discuss below the scope of some of the legislative amendments that came into force on October 30, 2019, to clarify such issues and assist patent applicants in Canada. Things are moving faster Under the new Rules, the time limit for filing a request for examination has been reduced from 5 years to 4 years, and the time limit for responding to an examination report is now 4 months instead of 6 months, thus shortening the process of obtaining a patent in Canada. Although there are mechanisms to extend these time limits by a few months, they result in additional costs to patent applicants and may also jeopardize priority examination procedures under paragraph 84(1)(a) of the Patent Rules. As a result, we have noted a generally accelerated pace of examination over the past year.  Time is running out for “latecomers” Canada was for a long time one of the only jurisdictions where it was possible to defer entry into the national phase until the 42nd month after the priority date as a matter of right by simply paying a late filing surcharge. However, under the new Rules, PCT applications will only be eligible for so-called “late” national phase entry if the failure to meet the initial 30-month deadline occurred despite "due care" (a suitable explanation will be required to demonstrate such a showing of due care). It is important to note that PCT applications with an international filing date (not a national phase entry date) prior to October 30, 2019 are subject to the old Rules in this respect, and therefore ”late” national phase entry in Canada between the 30th and 42nd month following the priority date is still possible for such PCT applications by paying the surcharge, without justification. Patent applicants would be advised to identify their pending PCT patent applications that are still eligible for “late” national phase entry under the old Rules, and file in Canada before the 42nd month expires in those cases where protection in Canada is desired.  Stricter deadlines for examination requests and maintenance fees – be careful Under the old Rules, for most of the time limits set by the Patent Act or the Commissioner of Patents, failure to meet such a time limit triggered a further 12-month period to fulfil the requirement in question via the abandonment and reinstatement system (applications), or the late payment of maintenance fees system (patents). Under the new Rules, this additional 12-month period no longer applies in cases of failure to meet the deadline for requests for examination and maintenance fees. However, the new system offers additional protection to applicants since failure to comply with the time limits for these actions triggers the issuance of a CIPO notice requesting the completion of the required action within a new time limit (usually 2 months). However, a “due care” requirement comes into effect after the expiry of the period specified in the notice or six months after the initial missed deadline, whichever is later. In addition to the “due care” requirement, third party rights may apply during the abandonment period. This leads to situations where a patent application is abandoned for two different reasons, with different deadlines and requirements for reinstatement, increasing the risk of confusion for applicants. Consider a hypothetical case where an applicant who was unsure whether they wanted to pursue a patent application decided to allow the application to become abandoned by not responding to an examination report by the November 1, 2019, deadline, and to retain the option of reinstatement the following year. In this now abandoned application, the applicant also did not pay the maintenance fee initially due on December 1, 2019, triggering a 6-month delay to pay the maintenance fee and a late fee. Non-payment of the maintenance fee and late fee by June 1, 2020 would thus result in a second reason for abandonment. However, in October 2020, the applicant finally decided to continue with the application, and to respond to the examination report with a request for reinstatement and payment of the reinstatement fee, thereby removing the first reason for abandonment. However, for the second reason for abandonment, the request for reinstatement must also include a statement that the non-payment of the maintenance fee and late fee within the prescribed time limit occurred despite the fact that the applicant exercised “due care” in attempting to make the payment. It is therefore important that patent applicants who deliberately abandon an application, but wish to retain the possibility of reinstatement at a later date, be well aware of the “due care” requirement and of the third party rights that may apply in certain circumstances, including ensuring that the time limits for requests for examination and maintenance fees are respected in order to avoid loss of rights. Manage your priorities well You are now required to file a certified copy of any priority application, or to refer to a digital library providing access to this document (CIPO accepts the “WIPO-DAS” code assigned to a priority application in this regard). For Canadian applications resulting from PCT applications, if the PCT requirements for a certified copy in the international phase have been met, it is not necessary to resubmit a certified copy upon entry into the Canadian national phase. However, for Canadian applications with a priority claim under the Paris Convention, the certified copy or digital library reference must be filed within 4 months of filing or 16 months of the priority date, whichever is later. Also, it is now possible to restore the priority of a Canadian application within 14 months of the priority date where the failure to file an application within the prescribed 12-month period was unintentional. The time limit for requesting restoration of priority is two months from the filing date for non-PCT filings, and one month from the national phase entry date for PCT filings. No longer lost in translation – more flexibility for non-PCT filings Prior to October 30, 2019, it was required to submit a patent application in one of Canada’s two official languages (English/French) and pay the prescribed filing fee at the time of filing to get a filing date in Canada for both non-PCT filings and PCT national phase entries. Under the new Rules, and only for non-PCT filings, it is possible to file an application in a language other than the two official languages and/or not to pay the prescribed fee at the time of filing. In such cases, CIPO will issue a notice requiring that a French or English translation of the application be provided and/or that the filing fee be paid within a specified period of time. This flexibility for non-PCT filings does not apply to filings based on PCT applications. For national phase entries of a PCT application filed in a language other than English or French, applicants must ensure that they have a translation of the application on hand at PCT national phase entry in Canada. Registration of documents and transfers It was previously necessary to register a copy of a document evidencing a transfer of rights (e.g., an assignment) and pay a registration fee in order to effect a change in ownership of a patent application or patent. However, under the new Rules, the registration of a transfer of ownership and the registration of evidence of the transfer (e.g., a signed transfer document) are separate actions for which separate fees must be paid. It is important to note that the mere registration of a document evidencing a transfer only results in that document being recorded, but is not treated as a request to record a transfer.   It is also important to note that former section 51 of the Patent Act—which provided that any assignment is void against any subsequent assignee, unless the assignment is registered as prescribed by those sections, before the registration of the instrument under which the subsequent assignee claims—has been repealed and replaced by subsection 49(4), which in turn refers only to transfers of patents. Thus, the priority is to record the transfer. In light of this, it is strongly recommended that patent applicants and patent holders promptly register any transfer of rights with CIPO in order to update their Canadian file and to prevent any subsequent and illegitimate transfer registration in favour of a third party. Conclusion If you have any questions or require further information on these or any other aspects of Canadian patent practice, feel free to contact a member of our team!

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  • Tax Aspects of Insolvency and Bankruptcy

    The current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused, and will continue to cause, significant liquidity problems for some businesses. Companies whose financial difficulties threaten their very existence will have to restructure in order to avoid bankruptcy, either by availing themselves of the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act1 (the "CCAA") or by using the proposal mechanism of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act2 (the "BIA").  Tax considerations related to an arrangement or a proposal accepted by creditors  Making use of the provisions of the CCAA or the BIA entails tax considerations for the debtor corporation that directors and owner-operators need to consider. Some of these tax considerations are discussed below.  In the context of the restructuring of a debtor company, creditors may accept a partial settlement of their claim or a conversion of their claim into shares in the debtor company. If a corporation is not bankrupt within the meaning of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the settlement of a debt for an amount less than its principal will have tax consequences for the debtor corporation. For example, certain tax attributes of the debtor corporation such as the balance of loss carryforwards, the undepreciated portion of the capital cost of depreciable property or the adjusted cost base of capital assets will be reduced by the amount of the reduction in the receivable, if any.   In certain cases, if the tax attributes of the debtor corporation are insufficient to absorb the amount of debt forgiven, inclusion in the calculation of its taxable income may occur, creating a tax liability.  Several strategies can be adopted to limit undesirable consequences in the context of a restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.  As mentioned, it may be possible, among other things, to convert the debt into shares of the debtor company without causing adverse consequences, if the fair market value of the shares issued upon conversion of the debt is equal to the principal of the debt.   In some cases, a debt held by a shareholder of the debtor company could be written off without consideration and without the need to issue shares.  Finally, it may be possible, in certain situations, to avoid inclusion in the income of the debtor corporation through the use of certain reserve mechanisms or through tax deductions.  Insolvency is a delicate situation for any business. Proper tax planning will allow the debtor company to maximize the effectiveness of the restructuring process offered by the CCAA.  Our taxation team can help you set up effective planning in this context.   R.S.C. 1985, c. C-36 and amendments R.S.C. 1985, c. B-3 and amendments

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  • The Unforeseen Benefits of Driverless Transport during a Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic has been not only causing major social upheaval but disrupting business development and the economy as well. Nevertheless, since last March, we have seen many developments and new projects involving self-driving vehicles (SDV). Here is an overview. Distancing made easy thanks to contactless delivery In mid-April 2020, General Motors’ Cruise SDVs were dispatched to assist two food banks in the delivery of nearly 4,000 meals in eight days in the San Francisco Bay Area. Deliveries were made with two volunteer drivers overseeing the operation of the Level 3 SDVs. Rob Grant, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Cruise, commented on the usefulness of SDVs: “What I do see is this pandemic really showing where self-driving vehicles can be of use in the future.  That includes in contactless delivery like we’re doing here.”1 Also in California in April, SDVs operated by the start-up Nuro Inc. were made available to transport medical equipment in San Mateo County and Sacramento.  Toyota Pony SDVs were, for their part, used to deliver meals to local shelters in the city of Fremont, California.  Innovation: The first Level 4 driverless vehicle service In July 2020, Navya Group successfully implemented a Level 4 self-driving vehicles service on a closed site. Launched in partnership with Groupe Keolis, the service has been transporting visitors and athletes on the site of the National Shooting Sports Centre in Châteauroux, France, from the parking lot to the reception area.  This is a great step forward—it is the first trial of a level 4 vehicle, meaning that it is fully automated and does not require a human driver in the vehicle itself to control it should a critical situation occur. Driverless buses and dedicated lanes in the coming years In August 2020, the state of Michigan announced that it would take active steps to create dedicated road lanes exclusively for SDVs on a 65 km stretch of highway between Detroit and Ann Arbour.  This initiative will begin with a study to be conducted over the next three years. One of the goals of this ambitious project is to have driverless buses operating in the corridor connecting the University of Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in downtown Detroit. In September 2020, the first SDV circuit in Japan was inaugurated at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The regular route travels 700 metres through the airport.  A tragedy to remind us that exercising caution is key  On March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Arizona, a pedestrian was killed in a collision with a Volvo SUV operated by an Uber Technologies automated driving system that was being tested. The vehicle involved in the accident, which was being fine-tuned, corresponded to a Level 3 SDV under SAE International Standard J3016, requiring a human driver to remain alert at all times in order to take control of the vehicle in a critical situation. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the vehicle’s automated driving system had detected the pedestrian, but was unable to classify her as such and thus predict her path. In addition, video footage of the driver inside the SDV showed that she did not have her eyes on the road at the time of the accident, but rather was looking at her cell phone on the vehicle’s console. In September 2020, the authorities indicted the driver of the vehicle and charged her with negligent homicide. The driver pleaded not guilty and the pre-trial conference will be held in late October 2020.  We will keep you informed of developments in this case.   In all sectors of the economy, including the transportation industry and more specifically the self-driving vehicles industry, projects have been put on hold because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, many projects that have been introduced, such as contactless delivery projects, are now more important than ever. Apart from the Navya Group project, which involves Level 4 vehicles, all the initiatives mentioned concern Level 3 vehicles. These vehicles, which are allowed on Quebec roads, must always have a human driver present. The recent charges against the inattentive driver in Arizona serve as a reminder to all drivers of Level 3 SDVs that regardless of the context of an accident, they may be held liable. The implementation of SDVs around the world is slow, but steadily gaining ground. A number of projects will soon be rolled out, including in Quebec. As such initiatives grow in number, SDVs will become more socially acceptable, and seeing these vehicles as something normal on our roads is right around the corner.   Financial Post, April 29, 2020, “Self-driving vehicles get in on the delivery scene amid COVID-19,”.

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