Combating Counterfeit Products Act


Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today in the House to speak, for the second occasion, on our important work to update our intellectual property regime and, more specifically, to combat counterfeit products, Bill C-8.

This is not just a modernization of our IP regime here in Canada but a bill that would have major impacts on public safety, on economic activity and revenues, and on jobs, because counterfeit products not only lead to risk for Canadians but lead to job losses.

Our present legal framework for intellectual property is also incredibly out of date. Like many areas, our government is moving on important issues of public policy, while other previous governments preferred to kick the can down the road. In fact, the Trade-marks Act was last amended in the 1950s and is out of date. That is before many members of the House were born. Also, with respect to trademarks, it does not even recognize the current state of intellectual property.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to have a column in Marketing magazine, and in 2012 I wrote a column on the emergence of sound trademarks in Canada. It might interest the House, especially on a Friday, to know that in the U.S. sounds have been trademarked for some time. We are all familiar with the NBC TV broadcast chime that started with radio and is on television. We all know the MGM lion roar. Well, the MGM lion roar is now a sound mark. In 2012, the Canadian intellectual property office allowed, for the first time, a sound mark. A lot of our big companies and big brands will use a sound to associate a connection with that brand. In the marketplace it is called a sound mark or a sting.

Even the language of the act would be modernized from using the old term “wares” to using the more broad and modern term “goods”.

The landscape has changed. Sounds, colours, three-dimensional shapes, textures, and even taste are a critical part of a brand’s identity. Companies, employers in Canada, spend millions of dollars securing these brands and this intellectual property.

Speaking of colours being associated with brands, I cannot resist to note that the colour blue is widely known to associate with strength and trust, while the colour red is considered boisterous and flashy. I think these differences between blue and red illustrate the differences between the Conservative leader and Liberal leader perfectly.

Bill C-8 would also enable IP rights holders to stop counterfeit goods at every step in the process: ports, distribution, and retail. As I mentioned the first time I rose to speak on this subject many years ago, for five years I was in-house corporate counsel at Procter & Gamble in Canada. In 2006, I was confronted with the ugly face of counterfeit goods in my job as a lawyer for the company. I assembled a brand protection team, with the support of the company president, Tim Penner; my general counsel, Eric Glass; our head of security, a proud OPP veteran working for P&G, Rick Kotwa; and a regulatory scientist, Jennifer Cazabon, who was in the gallery earlier today with her daughter, Maya. We put together a team to investigate and stamp out counterfeit goods that were affecting that company. They were not only affecting its revenues, its investments in Canada, and its jobs but potentially the safety of people who buy products because they trust the brand. They trust the logo, the trademark.

Bill C-8 would allow rights holders, like Procter & Gamble and other companies, to stop counterfeit goods throughout the criminal activity used to bring them to consumers’ homes. The bill would provide better tools to investigate commercial counterfeiting and help reduce trade and counterfeit goods by promoting new enforcement tools to strengthen our current enforcement regime. The bill would provide new criminal offences that criminalize the commercial possession, manufacture, or trafficking of counterfeit goods or trademarked counterfeit goods.

It would also create new offences for trademark counterfeiting and equip law enforcement and prosecutors with the right tools to stamp out this problem.

The act would also give border officials, the CBSA, the authority to detain suspected shipments and contact the intellectual property rights holders about their brands and their rights being attacked. It would allow Canadian businesses to file a request for assistance with the Canada Border Services Agency, in turn enabling border officials to share that information with the rights holders regarding suspect shipments.

This bill is yet another example of our government consulting widely with employers and key stakeholders, and listening. These changes, protections, and new enforcement mechanisms are what industry and rights holders have been demanding for over a decade. Increasingly, our well-trained and professional workers at CBSA have also been asking for these tools to do their job better and more efficiently.

It is also important to note, on the subject of counterfeit goods, that criminal networks around the world are feeding on counterfeiting as a highly lucrative profit to help fuel other enterprises. We know that these international criminal networks throughout the world bring tremendous harm and oppression, not just here in Canada but around the world, and the proceeds from these IP crimes fuel that. In 2005, the RCMP declared organized crime to be the primary actor in this area of malfeasance. Stamping out counterfeit products and IP crimes starves these criminal networks of funding and the ability to hurt.

The public safety elements of Bill C-8 are also very important and deserve highlighting. The bill would give border officers additional tools to work with their government partners at Health Canada and the RCMP. This would ensure that unsafe or unsanitary products that could harm Canadians are pulled from the market.

In my case, Procter & Gamble found that law enforcement officers could tell it that they knew there was a suspicious activity regarding one of its brands, but there could be no tracking and no proper investigation. There would be no prosecution because the tools were not there; so law enforcement, busy as it was, would have other priorities that were more likely to lead to criminal charges and jail time.

I hope we can move ahead quickly with the passage of this bill. By protecting consumers and families and by encouraging businesses through innovation, protecting their brands, and encouraging them to invest in Canada, these amendments would not only promote innovation and creativity; they would help stimulate job growth.

In my situation, while I was at Procter & Gamble, this one employer in eastern Ontario was the largest private sector employer in the communities of Belleville and Brockville, making important investments in manufacturing jobs in an area of our province that has chronic unemployment. Large companies around the world estimate losses in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars due to the theft of the goodwill surrounding their brands.

The Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, leading Canadian employers, brands, and academics have all been asking for us to update our intellectual property regime in Canada and provide law enforcement with the tools to stamp out these products, which will not only lead to job losses but will fuel crime and pose health risks to Canadians across the country. I truly hope that all my friends in the House will recognize that there has been a decade of asking for this. With our government, we are delivering.



Stay in Touch with Erin

Sign up for email updates from Erin O'Toole to hear the latest from Ottawa and our riding.