Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


March 25, 2021


Key points

  • Trade Agreements Improve Intellectual Property Protections
  • China and India Continue to Consistently Improve IP Protection—With China Notching Biggest Improvement  
  • U.S., Europe, and Japan Dominate Top 10 for IP Protection

On March 24, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its ninth annual Intellectual Property (IP) Index, “Recovery Through Ingenuity.” The report reveals that IP protections improved worldwide this year, often driven by international trade agreements. It also highlights IP’s vital role in enabling the development of a pipeline of therapeutics and vaccines to combat COVID-19.

“I’m sure the IP Index will enrich data points, provide food for thought for policymakers throughout the world, and contribute to the larger discussion about how IP can improve the lives of everyone, everywhere,” said General Daren Tang, director of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The Top 10 Economies according to the 2021 Intellectual Property Index

Here are some top takeaways from the report:

IP Protection Goes Up Worldwide
The overall global IP environment improved in 2020, with positive score increases in 32 of the 53 economies measured by the IP Index. Since 2014, the aggregated score of the economies benchmarked has improved 6.24%.

IP Boosts COVID Fight
The scientific community’s response to COVID-19 has been remarkable. Since the onset of the pandemic, research-based companies have dedicated substantial scientific, financial, and manufacturing  resources to the fight against the virus. This has resulted in the development of therapeutics and vaccines to combat the virus in months instead of years.

These technologies and products are the fruits of a pre-existing innovation ecosystem built around IP rights and incentives. Without strong and clear IP rights, it is unlikely that any of those products and technologies—or the underlying R&D—that have been essential to keeping societies functioning and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic would exist.

U.S. Claims Top Spot Again
The U.S. again claimed the top spot in the IP Index with an overall score of 95.31%. According to the report, the U.S. benefits from strong legal protections for IP, robust enforcement, and a long tradition of a rules-based legal system for adjudicating disputes.

Not surprisingly, America is one of the top beneficiaries of IP protection in terms of economic growth and jobs. IP supports over $6 trillion in GDP and more than 45 million jobs in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

U.S., Europe, and Japan Dominate Top 10 for IP Protection
European countries and Japan round out the top 10 countries for IP protection, according to the report. The United Kingdom (93.90%), Germany (92.27%), France (91.43%), and Japan (91.12%) make up the top five. They are followed by Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Switzerland. Spain claims the 10th spot with a score of 84.68%.

Among the biggest positive improvements this year was Mexico (adding 3.87% to reach 58.25%). Canada (+1.85%), the United Arab Emirates (+1.54%), and South Korea (+1.53%) also saw marked improvements.

Trade Agreements Improve Intellectual Property Protections
The report also reveals an added (and often underappreciated) benefit of  trade agreements and international treaties: They often promote and enhance IP protection.

According to the report, trade agreements with strong IP commitments help protect domestic creators and inventors, boost rule of law,  grow the economy, and encourage further investment from abroad.

For example, as a result of the USMCA trade agreement, both Mexico and Canada introduced substantive copyright reforms. While the Canadian government extended the term of protection for some copyrighted works, the Mexican government introduced more substantive reforms to its Federal Law on Copyright. Both countries’ scores rose substantially this year, partially as a result of these reforms.

The Index also reflects how countries took steps to strengthen international cooperation on IP through participation in international treaties. In Egypt, the government acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants act of 1991—helping to raise the country’s score substantially. Likewise, Colombia ratified the Convention on Cybercrime in March 2020. The country’s score rose 1.77% this year.

China and India Continue to Consistently Improve IP Protection—With China Notching Biggest Improvement  
Over time, there has been steady improvement in the  national IP environments in China and India as measured by the Index.

In fact, this year, China saw the biggest improvement in the entire report: its score improved 3.9%. China’s improved score is due in part to new legislation to strengthen its domestic IP framework, as a result of a trade agreement with the United States. These changes, if implemented effectively, should improve China’s domestic IP regime and build upon the momentum to strengthen domestic IP protection. Compared to 2012, China has improved its score by half—going from 36.52% of the total available score to 54.86% in this year’s edition—a growth of 18.34%.

Like China, India has seen the strength of its national IP environment grow by half, rising from a score of 24.96% of the total available score in 2012 to 38.40% in this year’s edition, an improvement of 13.44%.

IP Drives Economic Growth
Finally, the 2021 Index makes clear that an effective IP system will be critical to rebuilding healthy communities, getting citizens back to work, and reinvigorating the global economy. The report illustrates that countries with the strongest IP systems host 10 times more clinical trials, have twice the innovative output, and are 24% more competitive than economies with weaker IP frameworks.

To learn more, download the full report.

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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