WIPO: IP Policy Moves To Forefront Of Global Innovation

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The World Intellectual Property Organization has released its first report in what is expected to be a series of publications seeking to explain, clarify and contribute to policy relating to intellectual property. In its debut report, WIPO presented figures that show a growing global demand for patents, a soaring increase in licensing and royalty fees revenues, and an increase in low and middle-income economies’ share of global spending on research and development.

The first annual “World Intellectual Property Report 2011 – The Changing Face of Innovation” was launched in back-to-back press conferences at WIPO and the UN headquarters in Geneva on 14 November.

WIPO chose to focus on innovation to kick off its series for what Director General Francis Gurry described as “many obvious reasons.” At a time of continuing global financial crisis, soaring national debts and widespread joblessness, Gurry emphasised innovation’s key role in stimulating economic activity.

“Innovation is responsible for most of the increases in productivity and productivity, in turn, is responsible for most of the increases, or the largest component in, economic growth,” he said.

According to the report, acquiring knowledge has now become central to innovating firms across the globe. The figures, which have already taken a tour around many international media outlets, speak for themselves. Internationally, royalty and licensing fees have skyrocketed from US$ 2.8 billion in 1970 to US$180 billion in 2009.

Putting these figures into perspective, Gurry said, “The rate of growth in knowledge markets is outpacing the rate of growth in global GDP.” One practical consequence of such dramatic growth is the increasing demand and pressure on patent offices. WIPO estimates that there is a backlog of over 5 million unprocessed patent applications worldwide.

Innovation and Development

The launch came on the first day of the 14-18 meeting of the WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) meeting (IPW, WIPO, 15 November 2011). In an interview following the WIPO press conference, Pedro Roffe, a senior associate at International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development Senior Associate Pedro Roffe – who also spoke at the press event – said that the timing is “no doubt is very much related.”

“Developing countries have been arguing that there is a need for more evidence,” he said. “You don’t need to push into new areas of policymaking if you don’t have the evidence, if you don’t know what are the costs and benefits.”

In terms of developing countries’ performance, the report, which was prepared and coordinated by WIPO Chief Economist Carsten Fink, demonstrated that the world’s innovation epicentre is starting to shift. Although high-income countries still account for the vast majority of R&D spending, low and middle-income economies are starting to spend more in this area, up 13 percentage points from 1993 to 2009, with China accounting for 10 percent of the increase.

Another key finding in the report was that countries are putting into place more policies that optimise public research for innovation. Report evidence shows that university and public research organisation (PRO) filings under the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) are on the rise. Such filings have climbed from around zero in the 1980s to more than 15,000 in 2010.

For future WIPO reports, Roffe suggested, “One might ask what is the rationale in economic terms of having 20 years minimum protection of patents or having 70 years in the area of copyright.”

Rachel Marusak Hermann may be reached at info@ip-watch.org.

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