In 2021, COVID-19 continued to dominate our lives, jeopardize our health, and threaten to undermine our fragile economic recovery. While uncertainty around the pandemic persisted, intellectual property (IP) drove the development of innovative vaccines, therapeutics, and technologies that kept us safe, connected, and productive throughout the pandemic.
IP-driven innovation and creativity allowed the global community not only to survive—but to thrive—as we charted a course to the new normal. An effective IP system will be critical to ensuring the global community can continue to deliver the next generation of innovative and creative goods and services to compete for a better tomorrow.
Now in its tenth edition, the International IP Index benchmarks the IP framework in 55 global economies across 50 unique indicators. In 2021, Ghana and Honduras were added to the Index. The global pandemic clearly illustrated that innovation and creativity occur in an ecosystem, and the Index sheds light on the health of that ecosystem in global markets.
- Historically, many Index economies have struggled to provide adequate copyright protection as the growth and scale of online piracy increased over the last decade. However, new tools to combat IP infringement online helped strengthen protection for IP owners.
Out of the 53 economies included in both the ninth and tenth editions, 45 economies saw a net improvement in their scores. United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nigeria, and Peru had the largest improvements in score at 4.04%, 3.91%, and 2.76%, respectively.
Since the inaugural edition of the IP Index, the average score of economies has increased by 1.50%—from 55.72% in 2012 to 57.22% in 2022. The improvement was most pronounced in the patents and international treaties categories, signaling a growing understanding of ways patents drive innovation and the value of global harmonization on IP standards.
However, the indicators included in the Index represent a gold standard for the protection and enforcement of IP rights. The global average remains less than 60%, illustrating there is still significant room to improve the framework for innovation and creativity in global markets.
Economies of all levels of development— including the EU, UK, India, Singapore, Russia, and India—have utilized injunctive-style relief to disable access to infringing content.
The use of injunctive-style relief has resulted in a real decrease in piracy. For example, in Sweden, survey results show that the number of respondents accessing copyright-infringing content fell from 21% to 14% following the use of these new enforcement tools.
Over the last five years, the average score on this category has improved from 46.44% to 49.57%, an increase of 3.13%.
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In 2021, studies suggested that aggregated trade in physical counterfeit goods was valued at just under $500 billion (USD) or 2.5% of global trade.
Only 27% of 55 sampled economies provide customs officials with ex officio authority to seize suspected goods.
Additionally, 29% of the 55 economies do not publish any statistics on actions taken by their customs authorities with respect to suspected IP-infringing goods.
The vaccines, therapeutics, and technologies that have led the global community through the pandemic are the fruit of a pre-existing innovation ecosystem that relies on IP rights to enable allocation of resources, formation of partnerships, and transfer of technology on commercial terms.
Effective IP rights facilitated hundreds of voluntary licensing agreements that allowed the rapid scale-up of global manufacturing. Data indicates that by June 2022, global vaccine manufacturing capacity will reach 24 billion doses.
This proposal (if agreed and implemented) would waive many of the international IP commitments in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which has never been fully or faithfully implemented by most WTO member countries.
- Enforcement against physical IP-infringing goods has failed to keep pace with the increase in the volume of international trade in counterfeits over the last 10 years.
Any waiver of IP rights will impede ongoing and successful efforts to license and scale global production of safe and effective COVID-19 therapies and vaccines. As of January 2022, there were nearly 330 voluntary partnerships and collaborations among manufacturers facilitating the production of billions of doses of vaccines, and over 110 voluntary partnerships facilitating production of therapeutics, all supported by the contractual licensing of IP rights.
International IP commitments
- Despite the critical role IP has played in response to the pandemic, some members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have continued to push a proposal to “waive” international IP commitments
Any move to roll back IP rules or their enforcement would inject uncertainty at an already challenging time, as well as impede ongoing and highly successful efforts to license and scale global production and distribution of safe and effective vaccines.