Note: This blog post was updated in September 2013 to correct an error.
The Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act, which arose in 2003, was created as model for each province in Canada to use as needed to design their own legislative framework for unclaimed property law. The Ontario government established the Unclaimed Intangible Property Actin 1989 to create legislation around reuniting people and corporations with their unclaimed property, but that statute was not proclaimed in force and was repealed in 2011. Many aspects of the Uniform Act were incorporated into the programs that now operate in Alberta since 2008 and Quebec since 2011.
This Uniform Act includes provisions for a notification process by holders of unclaimed property to would be owners, and the establishment of a public registry of unclaimed property. Both Alberta and Quebec have their own variation of such legislation and programs. The Government of Canada has also established an unclaimed deposits program under the Bank Act. This program is operated by the Bank of Canada and applies to certain dormant property held by banks and federally-regulated trust companies.
Before we go further, intangible property describes something which a person or corporation can have ownership of and can transfer ownership of to another person or corporation, but has no physical substance. It generally refers to but is not limited to statutory creations such as copyright, trademarks, or patents, amounts due under an insurance policy, unpaid wages and interests recognized by such instruments as share certificates and bonds.
So what’s new, according to the Ontario government, a wide variety of intangible property currently lies unclaimed in various institutions in Ontario. In their 2012 Budget, the Ontario government had announced that they intended to “establish a program to allow owners to become reunited with this property and, until it is claimed, allow the property to be used for the benefit of Ontarians. Such a program would be similar to the programs that exist in other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States.”
To this end, the province is holding a public consultation so that interested stakeholders can voice their opinion to affect an upcoming Bill for An Unclaimed Intangible Property Program in Ontario.
Why your opinion matters
The purpose of creating an Unclaimed Intangible Property Program to suit the specific needs of Ontarians is double-fold. Many people misunderstand the law around their intangible property, what they may be entitled to, and how to access what is rightfully theirs. The reasons for this, too, are diverse: much of the law is obscure to many people, and either language barriers, literacy, or numeracy may also create impediments to a working understanding of ones’ entitled means.
Secondly, the Program is intended to function in a practical way to help families and guardians of those with such unclaimed property. If the individual in question has a disability, falls ill, or passes away, his or her finances will be attended to by an appointed steward. This can be confusing and difficult to navigate, as different and additional to that person’s own personal finances. The Program should then provide guidance, clarity, and direction for those persons given the charge of managing someone else’s unclaimed property.
Another point to consider is how the Program could also protect the individual from this second managing party’s potential mishandling, confusion around, or even intentional misuse of his or her unclaimed property. We hear an unfortunately high number of stories about the abuse and unwarranted appropriation of vulnerable persons’ finances and property. Such a program, if enacted with care, should also function to keep stewards and guardians honest.
An Intangible Property Program would be of benefit to business, too. As intellectual property such as copyright, patents, and trademarks are the stuff of business exchange as well as academia, provisions to engender a working understanding of who owns what, and when, and how, is most certainly of interest.
You can read more about the upcoming changes to The Uniform Act in Ontario here
How could changes in the Uniform Act effect you? Do you have an understanding of intangible property?
We would love to hear your thoughts. Also, remember to register your input on the upcoming Bill.
Editor at First Reference
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