Press Release

PhRMA Statement on Canada’s Supreme Court Overturning the “Promise” Doctrine

PhRMA June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 30, 2017) — Robert Zirkelbach, Executive Vice President, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA,) issued the following statement:

“We are very pleased that the Canadian Supreme Court held that Canada’s patent utility ‘promise’ doctrine is inconsistent with intellectual property norms. The Court’s decision could not have been clearer, concluding that ‘the application of the promise doctrine is not the correct approach to determine whether a patent has sufficient utility.’

“The ‘promise’ doctrine that enabled Canada to invalidate Astra Zeneca’s patents had undermined Canada’s stated goal of building an innovation economy.  With this decision Canada will rejoin the rest of the world in terms of how it defines patent utility.

“Canada has used this discriminatory policy in 29 court decisions that invalidated 26 patents on 22 medicines over the last decade, targeting only pharmaceutical companies. Canada’s actions have undermined patent protection and removed a critical incentive that drives and sustains biopharmaceutical innovation. This policy has hurt Canadian patients and the medical community. Since the institution of the promise doctrine the number of clinical trials conducted in Canada has declined 21 percent.

“This decision will enable Canada to recognize the importance of innovation, and evolve from a natural-resource based economy to one founded on science, innovation, and research.

“We know that Canada wants to, and can be, an innovation leader. This decision that further protects intellectual property will help Prime Minister Trudeau’s Government to grow Canada’s economy.”


About PhRMA
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested more than half a trillion dollars in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $58.8 billion in 2015 alone.

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