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Sylvain Laporte, Canadian Intellectual Property Office: Inventors, not IP agents




In a world of legal complexities, Canada’s new commissioner of patents still has much to learn

Laporte’s priority is innovation, not patent agents

With just a year under his belt as CIPO's commissioner of patents, registrar of trade marks and CEO, Sylvain Laporte is in the midst of tackling two of his main goals: to make Canadian companies more competitive by using intellectual property to leverage innovation and to better understand the innovator. "I was a bit amazed by how little CIPO understood our customer – the paying customer, the innovator," says Laporte, who previously held director-level positions in marketing. "We have a fantastic relationship with our IP agents to the point that the organisation would confuse the customer with the IP agent."

So, when faced with recommendations to reform regulation, he asks himself two things. Is this good for the customer and innovation in Canada? Or is this an administrative improvement that would be good for CIPO or the IP agent community in terms of reducing red tape or bureaucracy? "Those two categorisations can lead to very different priorities," Laporte says. "One is aligned with the government's priorities to move innovation, and the other is more administrative in nature. The priority for me is aligned with the government priority to improve innovation. In the past, those lines were blurred."


"Laporte spent his formative years moving around Canadian provinces. This, he says, has helped him develop a national perspective"


With his father in the military, Laporte spent his formative years moving around Canadian provinces, including Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. This, he says, has helped him develop a national perspective of events. His background in computer science, engineering and marketing also helps. Some of his previous posts include being the chief informatics officer of Industry Canada, executive director of the Industrial Technologies Office and director of different sectors at the Canada Post Corporation. "When you've worked in many of these different silos, you're enriched in many ways to solve problems," Laporte says. "Sometimes I will think like an engineer in very Cartesian terms, sometimes more like a marketer with a broader perspective."

For the commissioner, it's been a year of discovery. One of his biggest revelations was the passion in the IP community to do the right thing. "I'm amazed by the progress the community is making on the international front," he says. "It's hard enough for a country to make major improvements, let alone international bodies."

The approval of the Amazon one-click patent was significant. Laporte declines to discuss just how business-method patents would affect innovation in Canada, and will only say that CIPO is in the process of developing guidelines in terms of what kinds of business methods can be patented. He says he's ensured that the process is collaborative and has sought feedback from IP agents and the public. "I have no apprehension in making the decision knowing it will please some and displease others," Laporte says. "Statutory patentability is always a hot potato in any country's framework."

Overall, he is still grappling with the complexity of the legal environment. He references a worn compendium of all the laws the office has had to administer that sits on his desk. "When we have to make a decision as commissioner or registrar, you have to be open-minded," Laporte says. "I think having a transparent relationship with various stakeholders also enriches the conversation."

Further reading:

Amazon one-click will mean CIPO changes
CIPO allows one-click patent, but questions remain
Analysis: What’s next for business method patents in Canada?

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