Few assets are more valuable than a company’s patents and copyrights, though counterfeiting markets are swelling, increasing the importance of knowing where to find the best policy and enforcement safeguards.
In a somewhat comforting revelation, the U.S. has topped an intellectual property index of 45 countries compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, closely followed by other advanced economies: the UK, Germany and Japan.
China, widely regarded as a major source of IP theft against U.S. companies and government agencies, came in just over halfway down the list at 27th. The Chamber praised the country’s introduction of basic IP rights and proposed patent reforms, but also noted that historically high infringement levels are still growing, while the ability to secure adequate remedies to infringements remains a big challenge.
A few high-profile legal decisions in China last year involving the use of the names Apple, Facebook and Michael Jordan had favorable outcomes for the original owners, showing an interest by the country’s highest court to address key challenges in the registration of trademarks.
Coming in at the bottom of the list was Venezuela, with Pakistan, India and Algeria also performing poorly. India’s placement at 43rd was particularly disconcerting, given the economy’s sheer size, growth potential and out-sized contribution to the global tech sector.
“Emerging markets, such as India, have made incremental gains and embraced positive rhetoric with their IP policies, but they have not yet followed up with the legislative reforms innovators need,” said Mark Elliot, executive vice-president of the Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center.
Last May, India announced a new IP policy that involved speeding up patent registrations, but it resisted calls from Western countries to tighten its patent laws.
Some developed economies, including Canada and Australia, fared poorly as well, having recently implemented policies that “undermine their proud traditions of IP-led innovation,” Elliot claimed.
In Canada, for example, the Chamber said the country’s courts have increasingly ruled that biopharmaceutical patents were invalid owing to a lack of utility, despite being used by “hundreds of thousands of Canadian patients”.
More broadly, it has been a challenging couple of months for global IP, following Donald Trump’s decision to shirk the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asian and Latin American countries, which had set out benchmark standards.
The global market for counterfeit goods has more than doubled in size since 2008 to be worth $461 billion annually, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated last April.
The full 45-country report can be viewed here.