Study highlights negative impact of Canada's promise doctrine on R and D investment

Why Canada’s Promise Doctrine jeopardizes innovation and R&D.

Mark GraysonOctober 21, 2016

Study highlights negative impact of Canada's promise doctrine on R and D investment.

patents_protect_logo.pngA newly published study from Charles River Associates (CRA) has found that Canada’s approach to intellectual property (IP), innovation and patient care is being jeopardized because of its adoption of a unique legal theory – the promise doctrine.

The report finds that, globally, “Canada is perceived as falling behind other developed countries in rewarding innovation and ensuring certainty within its IP system.” This isn’t new. For years, Canadian courts have revoked patents on innovative medicines used by millions of people suffering from cancer, osteoporosis, diabetic nerve pain and other serious conditions. This approach inhibits the ability of biopharmaceutical innovators to research, develop and deliver new medicines to patients who need them and has allowed Canada’s international competitors to outpace them when it comes to the development of new treatments and cures.

CRA conducted an in-depth review of how IP is an important factor in the determination of the location of R&D investment. What they found was that “the promise doctrine was cited as having an important indirect effect on R&D investment decisions through the chilling effect it has had on Canada’s innovation reputation.” The promise doctrine isn’t only a threat to patients, but is also threatening Canada’s growth and innovation horizon. Patent applications are up around the world, but dropped 8.7 percent in Canada between 2006 and 2012. What’s more, R&D spending declined by more than 30 percent over roughly the same period and, according to World Bank data, Canada is in the bottom 25 percent of G20 countries for pharmaceutical patents filed by its own citizens.

In the study’s executive summary, CRA researchers argue that while Canada’s leaders may not be able to control factors like labor costs or market size, reviewing and reforming Canada’s approach to IP “is one tangible way that Canada may become a more attractive destination for international R&D investment.”

Prime Minister Trudeau and his government have an opportunity to boost Canada’s growth, employment and commitment to economic innovation by overhauling the use of the promise doctrine and creating an environment that helps biopharmaceutical innovators create new breakthroughs and cures.  

For more information on Canada’s promise doctrine and its overall approach to IP, go to

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