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Rules governing drug patents puts Canada on US’ naughty list; India on priority watch

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Canada has once again made the U.S. government’s naughty list in an annual survey of intellectual property standards around the world.

It was the only G7 country among the 36 nations on this year’s watch list, released Wednesday by the U.S. Trade Representative. The report singled out Canada’s failure to protect drug patents and expressed alarm at how easily Canadian courts have struck them down.

The U.S. administration promised to push for changes in ongoing trade talks. It said unfair court decisions had cost American drug makers, and expressed hope the issue would be resolved during negotiations toward the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership.

“The United States … has serious concerns about the lack of clarity and the impact of the heightened utility requirements for patents that Canadian courts have applied recently,” said the USTR’s annual report on intellectual property standards around the world, released Wednesday.

“Under this amorphous and evolving standard, courts can invalidate a patent on utility grounds by construing the ‘promise of a patent’ years after the patent has been granted, leading to uncertainty for patent holders and applicants and undermining incentives for investment in the pharmaceutical sector,” the report said.

“In applying this standard, courts have invalidated a number of patents held by U.S. pharmaceutical companies, finding now that those products lack utility … even though such products have been in the market and benefiting patients for years.”

The annual survey looked at 82 countries and placed 37 on its list.

Canada and 25 other countries made the lower-level watch list, including Mexico, Brazil and Greece. Ten were placed on the more serious “priority” watch list, including China, India and Russia.

Ukraine was in a category of its own last year and faced possible sanctions, but that process has been suspended given the instability there.

Canada had actually improved its standing in 2013, following four years on the priority list, after a pair of moves by the Harper government including the Copyright Modernization Act, which targeted Internet piracy.

But earlier this month, 32 members of Congress wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to complain about Canadian patent standards. They said that the evolving interpretation of international patent law by Canadian judges had cost U.S. drug makers 18 patents over the last decade.

No other country had revoked patents on similar grounds, said the letter, which called it egregious that generic drug makers were arguing successfully in court to have patents declared useless, only to turn around later and produce the same drugs at cheaper prices.

It called the issue essential for the U.S. economy, with one-third of American jobs tied to innovation.

Indiana-based Eli Lilly and Co. also filed a complaint last fall with a NAFTA panel, seeking US$500 million in compensation. It said Canadian court rulings invalidating patents for two of its drugs were illegal under the trade pact.

“We believe Canada has gotten a little bit offside in how it goes about making determinations on utility,” said Doug Norman, Eli Lilly’s vice president and general patent counsel.

Norman said companies like his couldn’t afford to keep spending $5 billion a year on research, in a legal climate where generic drug makers could knock down one patent after another and then copy the recipe.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Canada, he added.

Federal Court decisions voided patents for anti-psychotic and ADHD drugs by Eli Lilly from 2009 to 2011. In the case of the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa, generic medicine-makers tried the tactic all over the world but were successful only in Canada.

“If we keep losing patents based upon arguments like this, then sooner or later we’re not going to have the ability to continue investing in the underlying research,” Norman said.

The Canadian government, meanwhile, brushed off the findings of the U.S. annual report, known as the Special 301.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the report to be flawed,” said an email from Caitlin Workman, a spokeswoman at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

“The report fails to employ a clear methodology and the findings tend to rely on industry allegations rather than empirical evidence and objective analysis.”

She said Canada agrees strong intellectual property protection has a central role in a knowledge-based economy, and that Canada’s enforcement rules are perfectly consistent with its international obligations.

Canadian News

Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

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Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

THE Ontario government on Monday released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.

The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”

The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

  • Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
  • Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
  • Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.

Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips. “Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

“It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus,” said Elliott. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined some criteria he will use to advise government on when we may begin to slowly and safely ease public health measures and restart our economy. To be able to do so, w e need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward.”

Supporting the next phases of Ontario’s Action Plan, the new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips, will be consulting with key sectors in all regions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and develop a plan to move forward. The government and Members of Provincial Parliament will lead discussions with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, the postsecondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others.

The work of the committee will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s $17 billion response, that is delivering targeted relief for businesses and families across Ontario.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching economic impacts for businesses and communities across Ontario,” said Fedeli. “In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving. Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”

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Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

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Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

ONTARIO’S Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Tuesday announced he has appointed Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the Peel District School Board’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions to the Board issued on March 13.

“We expect our school leaders – trustees, senior administration, and educators – to ensure all students are learning in safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Lecce. “This is why effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.”

Huggins is a practising lawyer with 30 years experience in employment law, human rights law, workplace harassment and discrimination investigations and commercial litigation. She is a former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a Former Chair of both the Canadian Bar Association Standing Committee on Equity and the Ontario Bar Association Equal Opportunity Committee.  Huggins was also on the founding Board of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and has served on the Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Committee and the federal Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) for the GTA.

With the issuance of 27 binding Directions to the Board on March 13, the minister provided clear direction with specific timelines and deliverables to address systemic discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism, as well as dysfunctional governance, leadership and human resources practices within the PDSB.

“When it comes to confronting racism and discrimination, I will not accept delay or inaction,” added Lecce. “The message I am sending is — do better. Our kids deserve better. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

The Ontario Government said it is committed to ensuring PDSB complies with the minister’s binding directions so that parents, students and the community get the positive change that they need and deserve.

Huggins will deliver her report to the minister on or before May 18.

The PDSB is responsible for 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, and over 155,000 students representing a rich array of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds.

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COVID-19″ More Indo-Canadians returning are from India

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More flights carrying Canadians leave India

CANADIAN High Commissioner in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 15th special flight from India to Canada – had left Mumbai, bringing home more Canadian travelers stranded in India.

He added: “More special flights taking place in the coming days, thanks to all for your patience while we work through the complexities.”

On Tuesday, the 14th special flight with Canadians took off from Kolkata and Patel tweeted: “Huge thanks to our colleagues Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell & his team for collaborating to make this happen.”

The 13th special flight with Canadians had departed from Bangalore on Monday, covering six states in the south.

And last Sunday (April 26) the 12th special flight from India departed from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with nearly 300 Canadians aboard.

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

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