Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Draft Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty – Disclosure

Article E.8 of the leaked draft TPP treaty relates to the disclosure requirement. It is proposed by the US, Australia and two others, and opposed by all others except Japan, which is still considering:

Article QQ.E.8
Each Party shall provide that a disclosure of a claimed invention shall be considered to be sufficiently clear and complete if it provides information that allows the invention to be made and used by a person skilled in the art, without undue experimentation, as of the filing date.

This provision essentially codifies the core disclosure requirement of Canadian law. This precise formulation is not commonly used by the Federal Courts. A more typical statement is that a specification is sufficient if a skilled worker can practice the invention, even if “routine trials and experiments not amounting to invention might be necessary to arrive at the desired result” (see eg 2010 FC 1265, [532]). But it is doubtful that there is any real difference between this and the “undue experimentation” formulation, which is often used by the PAB (see eg CD 1315).

While E.8 captures the core Canadian disclosure requirement, if, as appears on its face, this provision is intended to be an exhaustive definition of the disclosure requirement, then Canadian law would require amendment. For example, s 27(3)(c) has a best mode requirement, applicable at least to machines, and Professor Vaver is of the view that there is a more general best mode requirement in Canadian law: Vaver, Intellectual Property Law (2nd ed) at 343-44. Indeed, it is surprisingly difficult to define the Canadian disclosure requirement precisely. As the SCC noted in Supreme Court noted in Consolboard [1981] 1 SCR 504, 518, “[i]t cannot be said that [the disclosure section] of the Act is happily phrased. It gives the impression of a mélange of ideas gathered at random rather than an attempt to enunciate, clearly and concisely, a governing principle or principles.” This is illustrated by the recent confusing – dare I say confused? – decision of the SCC in Sildenafil 2012 SCC 60, in which the invalidity of the Viagra patent turned on the failure to disclose “the invention”: see my recent article “The Duty to Disclose ‘The Invention’: The Wrong Tool for the Job, (2013) 25 IPJ 269. It may be that Canada opposes E.8 to avoid having to amend and clarify the disclosure provision of our Act. In my view clarification of our disclosure provision is undoubtedly desirable. It might even turn out that paring down the requirement to something like E.8 would be the best solution; but a number of important substantive questions, such as whether a best mode requirement is desirable, would have to be addressed before we could arrive at that conclusion. If indeed E.8 is intended as an exhaustive disclosure requirement, I am not surprised at Canada’s opposition. Again, the problem is not that this particular issue is impossibly difficult to settle. Legislative reform never seems to happen without some kind of external pressure, and a trade negotiation is perhaps as good an occasion as any. The difficulty is that the TPP negotiations are raising a number of difficult issues, and I don’t see how they can all be satisfactorily addressed, especially without a more public consultation process.

According to FN 100 to Art E.8, Mexico and Singapore “are willing to accept the article provided that the sentence ‘without undue experimentation’ is deleted.” The effect of deleting these words depends on how the resultant provision is interpreted. It might be interpreted as implying the very stringent requirement found in some old English cases, that “the terms of a specification should express the invention in the clearest and most explicit manner; so that a man of science may be able to produce the thing intended without the necessity of trying experiments” Turner v Winter (1787) 99 ER 1274, 1277. Experience soon proved that this requirement was much too stringent, and a provision that required such disclosure would be unacceptable. The alternative, and more reasonable interpretation, is that there would still be room for some trials, and it is only the precise “undue experimentation” formulation that Mexico and Singapore find objectionable.

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