Patent abstracts must be made available in both official languages

August 3, 2010

Picard v. The Commissioner of Patents and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, 2010 FC 86

Frédéric Picard brought an application in the Federal Court under subsection 77(1) of the Official Languages Act (Act) against the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and the Commissioner of Patents claiming that patents and patent applications must be bilingual to meet the requirements of the legislation.  He sought an order requiring the Patent Office to make certain parts of patents and patent applications available in both official languages and a declaration of invalidity of all patents available in one official language only, to be suspended to allow the Patent Office to make the invalidated patent applications and patents available in both languages.  Justice Tremblay-Lamer found that the Patent Office had not met the requirements under section 44 of the Act relating to the duty of all federal institutions to take positive measures to foster “the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.”  She concluded that “the fact that patents exist only in one official language deprives Canadian who do not speak that language of information that is important in both legal and scientific terms.”  In considering the appropriate remedy for this violation, she acknowledged the cost associated with translating all patents and applications.  The Federal Court therefore ordered that the Commissioner must at least “make available an unofficial translation of the abstract of all patents he issues” to be in compliance with the Act.  While the Court was not prepared to require that all aspects of the patent be translated, abstracts will have to be prepared in both official languages.

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