17 November 2020TrademarksMuireann Bolger

IP offices must learn from COVID-19 challenge, says report

Intellectual property offices (IPOs) of the future face a host of challenges and must learn from the lessons of the pandemic in order to thrive in the future, a new report released today by the International Trademark Association (INTA) has warned.

INTA launched a large-scale project in May 2019 that included the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the Future Think Tank, to explore the issues facing IP ten to 15 years into the future.

According to the report, the introduction by some IPO’s of short-term blanket extensions of filing and renewal timeline in response to COVID-19 had led to a complicated international regulatory patchwork.

Some offices even considered introducing emergency powers that would centralise decision-making. “The net result is that these well-intentioned domestic responses may have resulted in an international regulatory patchwork that has increased complexity for IPR seekers applying in multiple jurisdictions,” said the report.

The study revealed that IPOs with the capacity for economic analysis and modelling were able to anticipate IP application trends, allowing these IPOs to remain financially robust throughout this pandemic.

COVID-19 response

IPOs needed to understand how their IP data could be used and shared with researchers to develop, deploy, license, or commercialise inventions that could respond to COVID-19. Some IPOs introduced compulsory licence provisions for COVID-19-related technologies, while a few provided accelerated examination for similar technologies.

According to the report, the reaction of some IPOs to the pandemic improved the IP system’s reputation with the public.

During the crisis, some IPOs found ways to increase understanding and improve the sharing of IP information, assisting companies wishing to retool or pivot production lines to produce medical devices.

“In some instances, this information has also provided a counter-point to anti-IP sentiment that was arising by helping the public to understand how IP not only serves the interests of right holders but of the society as a whole,” noted the report.

Intangible assets increase

The report further explored how IP has become increasingly crucial to world economies.

Three years ago, intangible assets made up 85 percent of the total assets of the S&P 500, the index of the 500 largest public companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Now, they make up 90 percent, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The report further revealed that applications in 2018 reached more than 3.3 million applications for patents, 2.1 million for utility models, 14.3 million for trademarks, and 1.3 million for industrial designs worldwide.

“The shift from tangible to intangible value, in which innovation plays a central role, from traditional industries to the knowledge-based economy along with the strengthening of global trade and markets, has had a direct impact on the evolution of the IP system and the role of IPOs,” said the report.

Consequently, for the IP offices to evolve, they need to embrace agility, efficiency, effectiveness, diversification, and inclusiveness. “It relies on the integration of new tools, and changing practices and procedures, including adapting existing IP rights, or creating new ones,” it explained.

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