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Developments in IP

June 10, 2013

This year has seen big changes in the world of patents, with significant developments in the US and the EU.

After years of discussion, the EU accepted the need for a unified system that overrides the previous need to register country by country. The Unitary Patent should be in effect by early 2015, making the filing of patents within the EU far ore attractive and massively less time-consuming and expensive.

At the same time, with effect from last March, the US was overhauling its system under the auspices of the America Invents Act. An important feature of that Act is the ‘ first to file’ principle, which is certainly likely to boost the number of patent applications.

Globally, the use of patent systems to protect IP continues to gather pace. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reported 10.7% growth in 2011 and 6.6% in 2012. Of course, it is not possible to know how many of these patents have real merit and to what extent they will be used in efforts to prevent competition or extract money from real inventors. At least one encouraging piece of news was last week’s Execution in the US to limit ‘patent trolls’.

WIPO also commented on the drive by corporations to register intangible assets since these now play such a large part in market valuations, Certainly this implies negotiations over IP rights will remain high on the agenda for the ‘most negotiated terms’.

Of particular interest is the extent to which the source of new patents is changing. For example, last year, the top four filers of new patents worldwide were all from China and Japan (ZTE, Panasonic, Sony and Huawei).  Almost 40% of patents came from China, Japan or South Korea – up from less than 8% 20 years ago. If these intangibles genuinely do reflect relative wealth and value, this is a major reinforcement of the shifting global balance.

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