Innovation, Eh: The U.S. Impact of Canadian Policy

Hockey vs. Football; Tim Horton’s vs. Starbucks—While few nations share a more neighborly relationship than the U.S. and Canada, our two nations do not always see eye to eye. However, some of these differences could have significant implications on the future of both of our nations. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center took a closer look at the unique role intellectual property plays in our relationship with our neighbors to the north at their event, Canada at a Crossroads: How Canada’s Policies Impact American Innovation and Competitiveness.


While the North American Free Trade Agreement set the parameters for the U.S.-Canada trade relationship, the opportunity for growth and innovation between our nations remains mostly untapped. During his opening remarks, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Americas Strategic Policy Initiatives, Patrick Kilbride, stressed the benefits of working to develop a strong regional economy in North America. However, speakers noted that divergent policies, notably Canada’s inconsistent history with intellectual property protections have become a significant obstacle to our shared progress. Addressing some of these divergent policies can unlock enormous potential growth throughout both the U.S. and Canada.


One part of the challenge of encouraging IP protections in Canada stems from Provincial perceptions of IP’s role in spurring innovation. While studies continue to demonstrate the positive effect strong patent protections can have on building an innovation ecosystem, many people—in both the U.S. and Canada—don’t understand how intellectual property impacts their lives. U.S.-Canada trade and regulatory expert, Laura Dawson remarked that showing the ubiquity of IP can help people understand the importance of protecting it.

Innovation can be a nebulous term. When I talk about innovation, I’m really talking about the discovery of new and vital medicines that can improve the lives of patients around the world. Innovators—whether in the technology, entertainment, pharmaceutical, or any of the various industries that rely on IP—need to tell their innovation stories to demonstrate how IP can deliver jobs, and economic growth, but most importantly, better lives for society.

As Dr. Kristina Lybecker pointed out, trade agreements frequently act as an impetus for change. With so many trade agreements at various phases in the negotiating process, the U.S. and Canada can work together to plant the seeds of future economic growth. By using this opportunity to strengthen our relationship, and put the right standards in place, we can set the stage for our respective economies to blossom.