IP offices are increasingly realizing the benefits of working together and building ever-more sophisticated networks outside their immediate spheres of influence, as Saman Javed explains.
In the last year, intellectual property (IP) offices across the world have worked together on initiatives to increase protection for both domestic brands in foreign markets and foreign brands in their own markets.
These mutually beneficial arrangements start at the very top. Christian Archambeau, Executive Director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which has 28 member states and is the world’s largest IP office, calls collaboration with other offices “one of its core responsibilities.”
Worldwide cooperation among IP offices is likely to continue—and even accelerate, according to a new report, facilitated by INTA titled “The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the Future.” The study was undertaken by the IPO of the Future Think Tank and reflects the collective input of former and current heads of IPOs and key contributors who formed the project’s expert group.
The report stresses that collaboration for IPOs is a must, whether now or in the future, to assist with the diversity and complexity of challenges IPOs are facing, and help them better respond to stakeholders’ needs.
In the European Union, the EUIPO collaborates, at least in a formal way, by supporting the European Union Intellectual Property Network, which brings together EU member state IPOs and organizations in a bid to modernize tools and converge practices within the European Union.
“The tools cover just about every aspect of the work of the IPOs,” Mr. Archambeau said, highlighting, in particular, an e-filing system for trademarks and designs now in use by 21 IPOs.
In addition, Mr. Archambeau said, more offices are joining the EUIPO’s TMview and DesignView databases, which now cover 74 offices and provide access to more than 60 million trademarks and 16 million designs.
The EUIPO also acts as the implementation agency for EU-funded IP projects in non-EU regions, such as South East Asia and Latin America. Most recently, it joined a project in the Caribbean, which implements the EU Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement requiring Cariforum countries—a regional organization of 15 independent countries in the Caribbean—to upgrade their IP protection systems.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU-funded projects’ 2020 activities were adapted to be implemented virtually. This includes webinars and online enforcement-related activities, studies, IP training, and other best IP practice exchanges.
Of these activities, 20 percent are enforcement-related, which reflects the importance attached by the EUIPO and the European Commission to this field, according to Mr. Archambeau.
“Global solutions are needed. These can be delivered only by forging strong partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders.” - Christian Archambeau, EUIPO
Partnering With Enforcement
“A correctly functioning IP system that supports the competitiveness of EU businesses and helps deliver good quality, sustainable jobs needs to be ‘joined-up’,” according to Mr. Archambeau.
One example is the EUIPO’s IP Enforcement Portal, which integrates the EUIPO’s Enforcement Database communication hub, its anticounterfeiting Intelligence Support Tool and the Anti-Counterfeiting Rapid Intelligence System, which collects the testimonies of EU companies that face enforcement problems outside the EU.
“The portal acts as the single EU platform to deal with EU IP enforcement matters, handling all necessary communications between rights holders and enforcers, and providing a central access point for many searchable databases of IP-related material,” Mr. Archambeau explained.
The EUIPO is also an important source of funding for Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3), a specialist unit tasked with combating IP crime. It plays a major role with other agencies in dismantling organized crime groups involved in trafficking counterfeits.
“This is a global problem. The crime groups do not respect borders, so global solutions are needed. These can be delivered only by forging strong partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders,” Mr. Archambeau said.
In the last year, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has continued to strengthen IP partnerships with other countries through agreements. It has signed agreements with Brazil, China, France, Laos, Myanmar, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, which cover areas such as patent acceleration programs, best practices sharing, IP management training, and joint engagements with innovative enterprises.
“These agreements reinforce Singapore’s position as a growing IP hub in Asia and enable enterprises to manage, grow, and deploy their IP globally,” said Rena Lee, Chief Executive of IPOS.
“As a result, IPOS has received more IP filings from local and foreign businesses in the last decade,” she said. She also noted that, during the same period, the number of Singaporean brands registered overseas has doubled.
“We will continue to grow our international IP networks to support enterprise growth in Singapore and around the world,” added Ms. Lee.
The Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) has been involved in several initiatives with countries in Asia.
The PRV has a memorandum of understanding with India’s IP Office, Intellectual Property in India, which details a work plan between both IPOs, covering activities such as examiner exchanges, discussions on applied practices, and technology development.
The PRV has also benefited from funding from a partnership between the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
With this funding, PRV has undertaken development programs open to 18 countries in Africa and Asia to support innovation and creativity, using IP as a tool by strengthening institutions in the government, private sector, and academia, explained Margareta Ternell, PRV’s Director of Marketing and Communication.
“An evaluation of these programs in developing countries showed improvements in many aspects of their IP systems,” she added.
Similar to the examiner exchange program implemented by PRV, the IP Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) has, during 2018 and 2019, embarked on reciprocal examiner learning exchanges with IP Australia and IPOS. According to Simon Gallagher, National Manager of IPONZ, his office also works closely with WIPO.
IPONZ provides a wide range of data to WIPO, including trademark information for the Global Brands Database and classification terms for the Madrid Goods and Services Manager. It is also beginning to share its register and trademark classification data with the EUIPO.
These efforts are art of IPONZ’s international strategy, which aims to increase its global competitiveness by helping New Zealand’s businesses protect and leverage their IP.
“We will continue to grow our international IP networks to support enterprise growth in Singapore and around the world.” - Rena Lee, IPOS
In sharing best practices and knowledge, national IPOs share a common interest. The same cannot be said for departments working under the same government. For these departments, coming up with new ways to share their knowledge with their cross-border peers or with entirely new audiences often requires new approaches.
For example, IPONZ and PRV both say IP education was a key focus in 2019 and continues to be in 2020. But how can they achieve this when an IP office’s reach might be restricted to a specific group—i.e., people who already know enough about IP to visit an office’s website?
In Sweden, PRV wanted to reach the IP owners of the future, so it developed the Upphovsrättsskolan (copyright school), a digital platform designed to teach schoolchildren about copyright, in partnership with the country’s National Agency for Education.
In New Zealand, IPONZ is taking an innovative approach to achieve better outcomes for “low IP awareness customers” such as small business owners. Its “Dream it. Do it. Own It.” campaign aims to reach new audiences by providing tailored information for other New Zealand government agencies, which the agencies can share through their own channels.
“IPONZ is nearly 150 years old, but new businesses may not know about our services. By partnering with other agencies, we increase our reach, and customize our services with those that are closer to small businesses,” Mr. Gallagher said.
New Zealand officials want to make startups aware of ONECheck, a resource whereby they can search their proposed business name against the trademark register as well as across domains, social media handles, and the New Zealand Companies Office.
As stated in the “The IPO of the Future” report, “The IPO of the Future must become more open and collaborative with other IPOs and relevant organizations. This can allow for best-practice exchanges and even informal discussions on pressing issues, potentially smoothing the way for multilateral harmonization that can benefit stakeholders in both developing and developed countries.”
The report also highlights the importance for IPOs to collaborate with all stakeholders, private and public, noting: “There is a multitude of stakeholders in the innovation and IP ecosystem, all of which must work together to support and protect innovation and creativity.”
INTA will release the complete report to the public on November 17. In addition, Town Hall sessions at the 2020 Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting this week will discuss the report, as well as two other Think Tank reports for in-house practitioners and law firms, respectively.
IP offices, EUIPO, COVID-19, pandemic, European Commission, IPOS, WIPO, innovation, INTA 2020, ONECheck, social media, SMEs, trademarks, designs