File Wrapper Estoppel in Canada – How Far Are the Courts Willing to Go?

By: Stacey Dunn

Since the coming-into-force date of new section 53.1 of the Patent Act in December 2018, Canadian practitioners have been waiting to see how broad this “file wrapper estoppel” provision will be interpreted. Recently, the Federal Court released a decision that expands the scope of s. 53.1 to potentially include foreign prosecution file wrappers. However, this case is currently under appeal.

Section 53.1(1) states that written communications prepared in respect of the prosecution of a patent application between the applicant or patentee and an employee of the Canadian Patent Office may be admitted into evidence to rebut any representation made by the patentee in claim construction. However, the Court held in Canmar Foods Ltd. V TA Foods LTD (2019 FC 1233) that foreign prosecution could be admissible to the court under “extraordinary circumstances”.

During the prosecution of Canadian Patent No. 2,582,376, a Response to an Office Action stated “New claims 1 to 19 correspond substantially to those submitted during prosecution of a related United States application” and “the newly submitted claims are much narrower in scope than the previously examined claims”. Accordingly, the Court held that because the patentee specifically referenced the corresponding US Application’s prosecution history and acknowledged that the amendments were made to overcome novelty and obviousness concerns raised in the US Application’s prosecution history, the applicable US Application’s prosecution history was admissible. The Court stated that if they were to ignore the US prosecution history in this specific case, “patent applicants in Canada would be incentivized to intentionally refrain from being transparent with the Canadian Patent Office as to why amendments were made to limit claims during prosecution”. However, an unintended consequence of this case may be that patent practitioners may intentionally refrain from being transparent. Instead of providing Examiners with information regarding where the amendments are coming from, Applicants are now incentivized to not mention any reference to foreign prosecution. Under this interpretation, Applicants would be better served to merely state that the claim amendments are not disclosed, taught or fairly suggested by the prior art without reference to a foreign Patent Office’s work.

The Court held that “extraordinary circumstances” arise where “the patentee acknowledges that the claims have been amended to be substantially the same as claims submitted in another jurisdiction, and the patentee admits that the amendments have limited the scope of claims in order to make the claims novel and non-obvious”. When this occurs, the Court held that the foreign prosecution history is admissible for the limited purpose of purposively construing the Canadian claims. The Court specifically mentioned expedited examination via the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), where Applicants are required to identify allowable claims in another jurisdiction and amend the claims to substantially conform to those allowable claims. Accordingly, Canmar appears to suggest that the foreign prosecution history of the Office of Earlier Examination (i.e., the country with allowable claims to which a PPH request is being made) will be admissible in court as there is an implicit admission that the amendments limit the scope of the claims to be novel and non-obvious.

What does this mean for Canadian patent prosecution moving forward?

Canadian practitioners are well aware that anything put on the record in Canada may be admissible in US court proceedings. Accordingly, verbose Responses have always been avoided, and indeed directly referring to US prosecution was a way to avoid adding anything new to the worldwide file wrapper for that patent family. However, practitioners should avoid mentioning foreign prosecution history, even to show the Examiner that these amendments have been deemed allowable elsewhere. Furthermore, Applicants should be wary of entering PPH in Canada, as the prosecution history of the Office of Earlier Examination may be used to rebut a representation made by the patentee in claim construction.

Brion Raffoul Welcomes 3 New Law School Students for Summer 2020

Brion Raffoul is pleased to announce the addition of 3 new law school students to our team:

Tina Dekker (M.A.Sc. Electrical Engineering – Nanotechnology)

Joshua Proud (Biomedical Mechanical Engineering)

Alexandra Dingee (Biology)

Brion Raffoul Congratulates New Patent Agent Stacey Dunn

The firm would like to congratulate Stacey Dunn for passing the 2019 Canadian Patent Agent Qualification Examinations to become a Registered Canadian Patent Agent. Stacey has a background in molecular genetics and specializes in the life sciences. Stacey is also a lawyer in Ontario and actively supports our legal practice in the area of IP licensing and enforcement.

Brion Raffoul is a premier Canadian IP boutique providing clients with a full range of patent, design, and trademark procurement services, as well as legal advice in the field of IP.  We take time to know our clients and are committed to providing excellent quality service in a timely manner. If you have any questions about intellectual property, please feel free to reach out to any of our professionals.

5 Tips for the Ottawa IP Summer Law Student Recruitment Process (Fall 2019)

By: Stacey Dunn

Getting a job in law school can be daunting – there are relatively few summer job positions compared to the mass number of student applicants. If you know you want to specialize in IP, this ratio is even less in your favour. Here are five tips to help get through the Ottawa IP summer recruitment process:

I. Do Your Homework

Research, Research, Research – this point CANNOT be stressed enough. There are three general areas of research you should be doing: research the firm, research the interviewers, and research recent and current summer and articling students.

(1) Research the Firm

Make sure you understand the firm you are applying at. Many firms have a specific culture and values and it’s important that you agree with the direction the firm is going in. Afterall, many summer positions lead to articling and then to an associate position. Make sure that firm is where you want to spend the next few years. You’ll hear a lot about whether or not a student has a good “fit” with a firm – however, it’s equally as important that you think the firm is a good “fit” with you. For example, some firms track billable hours and your performance metrics are largely based on the number of billable hours you have a year. Other firms do not track billable hours and charge on a fixed fee basis. Billable hours vs fixed fee can have a significant impact on your work-life balance. It’s important that you make the right choice for your lifestyle.

(2) Research the Interviewers

You should always know who you will be interviewing with. If you were not informed when scheduling the interview, ask! This will show that you’re are interested and proactive. Make sure you memorize, at the very least, each person’s name, position, and scientific background. Also, consider asking your interviewers questions about their scientific/engineering background. Afterall, many IP summer jobs are in patent prosecution or patent litigation. The interviewers will be interested in your scientific or engineering prowess. You can impress them by asking them specific scientific questions related to their background. When researching your interviewers, look into papers or articles they’ve previously written. Regardless of whether the articles are about IP or science, asking them specific questions about their own expertise will surely impress them!

(3) Research Recent and Current Summer and Articling Students

Look into previous students at the firm. There is nothing worse than interviewing a candidate who asks generic questions, like “what type of tasks will I be working on” or “what is a typical day like for a student”. While these may be valid questions, your questions should be tailored to the organization. For example, instead of asking “what type of tasks will I be working on”, ask “I noticed on your website that X (a recent student or articling student) has a similar scientific/engineering background as I do. What types of daily tasks do they work on and would I be expected to do similar tasks?”

II. Reach Out to Someone at the Firm Before Applying

To show interest in the firm, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a student or young associate at the firm to ask if you can take them out for coffee or do a phone “informational” interview (i.e., to ask them questions about their job and about the firm in general). The summer is a perfect time to do this (i.e., before the recruitment process starts – there are rules about contacting students during the recruitment process). Do your research on all the potential people you could ask and choose someone that you have a connection with – no matter how small. Did you do your undergrad at the same school? Do they have the same technical background? Did they attend the same law school? Are they from the same city? All you need is a small connection to show you did your research when cold calling or sending them an email.

III. Be Willing to Travel

This is the time to invest in your career. You may not have much money to travel at this point but traveling to attend an interview can make or break getting a summer job. For example, I was specifically told once that the only reason I did not get a job was because I did not travel to the city for the second interview (the second interview was conducted via Skype™). This was after the recruiter told me that it was “no problem” that I couldn’t travel to that city. Lesson learned.

IV. Know Your Own Skills

This may seem like a given – you wrote your resume and should obviously know your skills and experience. However, you’d be shocked at how many interviewees stumble at questions about their own skills. Reviewing your own resume and having a clear list in your head of the skills you learned with each experience can also help boost your confidence during the interview. Furthermore, always review your previous scientific or technical projects – it is not uncommon for questions about previous projects to come up in an interview. Not knowing the answer to a scientific question about your own previous research projects is fatal to getting that job.

V. Don’t Underestimate Small Firms

If you really want a summer IP position, don’t limit your applications to the big firms. Smaller IP boutiques are great training grounds because students don’t get pigeonholed into a specific role. Generally, at a large firm, you’re placed in a specific technical group and that is the type of work you’ll be doing all summer. At a smaller firm, you will get exposure to several different technical areas and potentially different areas of IP. Resulting not only in a more interesting summer, but better overall training that will result in you being a more rounded and knowledgeable lawyer.

Another advantage of a small firm is that you generally have more hands-on training. At a big firm, it’s easy for students to get lost in the shuffle. At a smaller firm, you often have direct training from partners and advanced associates. Furthermore, working at a smaller firm gives you more visibility to stand out. Combine that with significantly less competition and you have a much higher chance of getting hired.

Lastly, if you don’t get that summer position, don’t fret – the majority of law students do not get law related summer jobs. However, it’s always a good idea to call or email each recruiter to ask for feedback on the process. After all, “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” – Henry Ford.

The New Gold Rush: Open Innovation in Canada

“It’s impossible for any organization to have all the best ideas”

~ General Electric, Open Innovation Manifesto

Open Innovation as an R&D strategy may seem counter-intuitive; traditional corporate culture dictates the use of secret R&D labs that operate in an information silo. However, open innovation can offer many competitive advantages, such as complimenting your company’s internal skills and know-how with external knowledge and ideas, lowering R&D costs, and increasing differentiation in the market.

For example, in 2000, the Canadian gold mining company Goldcorp Inc. crowdsourced gold prospecting in an under-performing mine; Goldcorp knew they were sitting on a literal and figurative gold mine but their geologists could not find the main deposits of gold. Goldcorp created a challenge for the general public; they released all Goldcorp’s geological data (going back as far as 1948) and offered $575,000 in prize money to the innovators that could find the elusive gold deposits. At the time, this type of open innovation was contrary to traditional mining practices: Goldcorp was admitting they were unable to find the gold and was releasing all their proprietary data. However, Goldcorp’s challenge led to more than 110 gold deposits that yielded over $6 billion worth of gold.

So, if that doesn’t answer why open innovation is a worthy consideration for any business, consider that patent filings in Canada have not increased significantly in the past ten (10) years. However, this stagnation is not an issue of lack of funding. Indeed, statistics from Industry Canada indicate that Canada is second only to the United States when it comes to venture capitalist funding.


Collaboration between companies and with the public at large should be considered to invigorate innovation in Canada. In another successful example of open innovation, Bombardier held a contest to solicit urban mobility designs. They created a social media open innovation community integrated with live, offline workshops. The contest rules stipulated that the winners must transfer their IP to Bombardier in exchange for a small prize. Bombardier also kept a right of first refusal for a year for all non-winning ideas. By creating a community around innovation, even outside their company, Bombardier created a sense of self-determination and pride in the community, that resulted in innovation pouring into Bombardier. Indeed, Bombardier received input from 2,486 participants from 102 countries that contributed 4,239 designs, 25,979 evaluations, 8,565 comments and 3,445 messages on Bombardier’s proposed urban transportation projects. As a bonus to uncovering a gold mine of innovation, Bombardier customers were very receptive to their more open and customer-orientated brand.

However, it is important to note that “open” innovation does not necessarily mean the innovation is in the public domain; the devil is in the details. IP ownership provisions should be clearly outlined in an agreement between all involved parties. The following questions can be helpful in outlining the preferred ownership details:

  • Who will own the IP stemming from the project (foreground IP)?
    • What about jointly created IP (joint ownership/management of IP assets should be approached with caution)?
    • Consider motivation factor for crowdsourcing when innovators own their IP?
    • Does a royalty-free license in perpetuity make sense given the motivations of the IP owner (i.e., the company or the innovator)?
  • What IP do the innovators and the company already own (background IP)?
  • Who owns the feedback stemming from the project?
  • Should a right of first refusal be included for IP that is not exploited during the project?

The bottom line: open innovation can be a great way to invigorate innovation within your company without resorting to a significant increase in R&D funding.