The protection of intellectual property (IP) is crucial to a healthy globalised economy as it allows innovative businesses in a vast range of industries to receive proper value for their designs, branded goods and inventions.
The concept covers patents, copyrights, utility model rights, design rights and trademarks and has been the subject of much debate in recent years.
Figures from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) show that there were 8.4 million trademark applications across the globe in 2015, an increase of 13.7 per cent on a year earlier. There were also 2.9 million patent applications, an increase of 7.8 per cent in 2014. Almost 1.1 million applications to protect industrial designs were submitted and 1.2 million for utility models, which are a special form of patent right with less stringent requirements and a shorter term of protection.
Around a quarter of all patents in force worldwide in 2015 were in the USA, and nearly a fifth (18 per cent) were in Japan. But China’s share is growing fast according to WIPO – the number of patents in force in China has leapt from about 600,000 in 2010 to almost 1.5 million. China accounts for more active trademarks than any other country (10.3 million), more than a third of all the world’s industrial design registrations in force, and fully 90 per cent of utility models in force globally.
In 2015, the top ten WIPO IP offices worldwide were China, USA, Europe, Japan, India, France, Korea, Turkey, Russia, Germany. The China office became the first to receive over a million patent applications in a single year, dealing with almost as many applications as Japan, the Republic of Korea and the USA combined.
Piracy and counterfeiting is a big problem globally, particularly for those developed nations that rely heavily on intellectual property to drive their economies forward.
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5 per cent of global imports. The total value of imported fake goods worldwide was USD 461 billion in 2013.
Up to 5 per cent of goods imported into the European Union are fakes (worth approximately 85 billion Euros), with Italian and French brands the hardest hit. Most of these fake goods originate in middle income or emerging countries, with China the top producer.
The effective enforcement of IP rights against counterfeiting and piracy can rely on both criminal and civil litigation, but it is vital that a level legal playing field exists to enable innovative corporations to confidently conduct business across multiple jurisdictions, deterring criminals while safeguarding jobs and prosperity.
The task of creating this level playing field falls to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and WIPO. In conjunction with national and regional bodies, they are attempting to standardise the complex area of IP rights; and they rely on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to do this.
TRIPS incorporates detail from various historical agreements and conventions (e.g. Paris and Berne) and is an attempt to regulate how intellectual property law is enforced across the world by national governments.
In this IR Global Virtual Series, you will hear from IP experts in Germany, China, India, Japan, Sweden, Italy, France and The Philippines. They will reveal details of the civil and criminal litigation processes in their jurisdictions as applicable to IP and discuss the effectiveness of TRIPS as a measure to combat product piracy. They will also highlight various IP disputes they have been involved in, that demonstrate IP law in action.