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Kelly Anderson Executive Director, Health and Drug Policy, Global Innovation Policy Center

Published

February 23, 2022

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If ingenuity is the door to the future, competition is the key.

Innovators and creators are constantly competing to deliver the best, brightest tomorrow. They're racing to create the solutions we need to address critical global challenges, like public health, cultural development, environmental sustainability, and economic disparities. Intellectual property (IP) policies can spur innovators and creators or stop them altogether.

Governments must make a choice: They can embrace dangerous policies to roll back international and domestic IP protections and deprive their economies of the many benefits strong IP ecosystems provide. Or, they can make conscious policy decisions to invest in their IP framework until every individual with an idea has a fair shot at the competition for leadership, success, and, ultimately, tomorrow.  

The U.S. Chamber International IP Index (the Index) illustrates the choice is clear. In its tenth edition, the Index benchmarks the intellectual property framework in 55 global economies across 50 unique indicators. In addition, it correlates the relationship between an economies' IP framework and its economic, social and cultural success. 

Here are the top five findings lawmakers and stakeholders should consider as they pursue constructive agendas that promote innovation and creativity. 

1. The global IP environment has improved over the last decade, but challenges remain as many economies still receive low grades on their protection of intellectual property rights.

Since the Index's first edition, the average economy overall score increased by 1.5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Further, out of 53 economies profiled in the ninth and tenth editions of the Index, 45 economies raised their overall score. These improvements are most pronounced in the patents and international treaties categories. Still, these improvements are not enough to achieve true, unbridled global innovation and creativity. As a result, the average economy overall score remains below 60 percent, a failing grade on most achievement scales.

2. Historically, many 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. 

Copyright assigns market value to everything from song lyrics, movies, and TV shows to video games, books, and paintings. Unfortunately, as more and more creative works are accessible online, more bad actors steal and share copyrighted creative works illegally and maliciously. Fortunately, governments are fighting back. Economies at every level of development - from the US, UK, and Sweden to India, Singapore, and Russia - have utilized injunctive-style relief to disable access to copyright-infringing content online and are already seeing positive results. For example, in Sweden, survey results show that the number of respondents accessing copyright-infringing content online fell from 21 percent to 14 percent following the implementation of injunctive-style relief measures.

3. However, 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 ten years. 

Counterfeiters use a brand owner's trademarks - like a company name or logo - without permission to sell their goods, often of inferior quality and sometimes downright dangerous. In 2021, the aggregated trade in physical counterfeit goods was estimated to be worth just under $500 billion or 2.5% of global trade. Yet, despite the incredible scope of the problem, most economies studied in the Index have not established agreed-upon best practices to fight back. For example, only 27 percent of the economies in this year's Index provide customs officials with ex officio authority to seize suspected counterfeit goods or power to seize suspected counterfeit goods without a specific complaint, but rather reasonable evidence. Additionally, 29 percent of the economies do not publish any statistics on actions taken by their customs authorities concerning suspected counterfeit goods, making it difficult to measure efficiency and effectiveness.

4. IP-intensive goods and services were critical to the global response to COVID-19.

IP is at the heart of the solutions that emerged to combat COVID-19, from cures like vaccines, therapeutics, and medical technologies to connections like virtual meeting software and 5G. The Index shows that it's no coincidence that these solutions originated almost exclusively in economies with strong IP systems, not to mention that access to these solutions was greatest in economies with strong IP systems. That's because strong IP systems enable allocation of resources, forming partnerships, and transferring technology on commercial terms. For example, robust IP systems facilitated hundreds of voluntary licensing agreements that powered the rapid scale-up of global manufacturing, especially in the life sciences industry. 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 enabling the production of therapeutics, all supported by the contractual licensing of IP rights. As a result, by June 2022, global vaccine manufacturing capacity is anticipated to reach 24 billion doses.

5. Despite the critical role IP played in response to the pandemic, some World Trade Organization (WTO) members continued to push a proposal to "waive" international IP commitments.

Although the Index and other trusted research demonstrate that robust IP systems help drive innovation and access to innovation, some world leaders mischaracterize IP protections as barriers to innovation and access to innovation. That misconception is the basis of a recent WTO proposal: It aims to waive many of the international IP commitments in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which establishes the minimum standards for international IP protection and, yet, has never been fully or faithfully implemented by most WTO member countries, as reflected in the Index. Such a waiver would intensify market uncertainty, discouraging innovators from pursuing new ideas and taking risks, and thus, harm ongoing and potential efforts to solve COVID-19 and other critical issues. 

The Index has helped economies better understand their unique IP systems to improve and drive progress for ten years. A decade's worth of data shows that the global IP system has grown stronger as a result. But, it's not finished growing. 

To learn more, check out the U.S. Chamber International IP Index and explore the interactive map

GIPC IP2022 mapsocial v1

About the authors

Kelly Anderson

Executive Director, Health and Drug Policy, Global Innovation Policy Center

Kelly Anderson is the Chamber's Senior Director of Health and Drug Policy at the Global Innovation Policy Center.

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