New Report Highlights Increasing Global Significance of Intellectual Property

On November 14, 2011, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released a report, entitled “World Intellectual Property Report 2011 – The Changing Face of Innovation.” The report emphasizes the growing importance of intellectual property (IP) rights with respect to the development and growth strategies of companies worldwide.

Overall, the WIPO report describes key trends in the innovation landscape, including the increasingly open, international and collaborative character of the innovation process; the causes of the increased demand for IP rights; and the rising importance of technology markets.

Below are a few noteworthy finings detailed in the report:

  • Demand for IP rights has grown significantly. Demand for patents has risen from 800,000 applications worldwide in the early 1980s to 1.8 million in 2009. Similarly, trademark applications worldwide increased from 1 million per year in the mid-1980s to 3.3 million in 2009.
  • Well-functioning patent institutions perform the essential tasks of ensuring the quality of patents granted and providing balanced dispute resolution. However, unprecedented levels of patenting have put these institutions under considerable pressure. Many patent offices have seen growing backlogs of pending applications. In 2010, the number of unprocessed applications worldwide stood at 5.17 million. The choices patent offices make can have far-reaching consequences on incentives to innovate.
  • Knowledge markets based on IP rights are on the rise. Evidence suggests that firms trade and license IP rights more frequently. Internationally, royalty and licensing fee revenue increased from USD 2.8 billion in 1970 to USD 27 billion in 1990, and to approximately USD 180 billion in 2009 – outpacing growth in global GDP. New market intermediaries have emerged, such as IP clearinghouses and brokerages.
  • While high-income countries still dominate global R&D spending, Low- and middle-income economies have increased their share of global R&D expenditure by 13 percentage points between 1993 and 2009. China accounts for most of this increase – more than 10 percentage points – propelling China to the world’s second largest R&D spender in 2009.
  • Innovation is increasingly international with a sharp increase in the share of peer-reviewed science and engineering articles with international co-authorship and a rising share of patents that list inventors from more than one country.

For more information, the full WIPO report is available here.

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