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Assume, for a moment, that I want to fling a haggis across a Canadian river.

Rather like—well, like meatmonger Gordon Sinclair. But let’s further assume that Sinclair is a smart, even ruthless businessman, familiar with current trends in intellectual property law. So let’s assume he didn’t just patent the device he’ll use to fling the haggis across the river. After all, why do that when you can patent the entire concept of transriparian haggis delivery? I highly doubt anyone has ever filed a patent for flinging a haggis across a river before; I doubt anyone has even written a sketchy monograph on the subject. There would therefore be no prior art to contest Sinclair’s claim that the idea sprang fully formed from his head, and that he thus deserves sole ownership.

So: assuming I, too, want to fling a haggis across a Canadian river, I’d be shit out of luck. —Unless, of course, I’m willing to pay Mr. Sinclair a hefty licensing fee.

But all this assumes that the Canadian Patent Office is as literal-minded, ignorant, dunder-headed, compliant, and—to be fair—underfunded as the US Patent and Trademark Office.