Growing demand for patents: WIPO
The rise of new innovating countries and the desire to protect inventions abroad have fuelled a soaring demand for patent protection, the World Intellectual Property Organization said Monday.
The number of unprocessed patent applications stood last year at 5.17 million, prompted by growing investment in innovation and the globalisation of economic activities, the WIPO said.
The body said ownership of intellectual property rights had become central to the strategies of firms across the world.
"Innovation growth is no longer the prerogative of high-income countries alone; the technological gap between richer and poorer countries is narrowing," said director general Francis Gurry in the WIPO's World Intellectual Property Report 2011, published on Monday.
Demand for patents rose from 800,000 applications in the early 1980s to 1.8 million in 2009.
Patenting has grown especially fast for "complex technologies", the WIPO said, including the rapidly advancing information and communications sphere.
It raised concerns that an increasingly "dense web" of patent rights could slow down innovation.
"Some complex technology industries, notably telecommunications, software, audiovisual technology, optics and, more recently, smartphones and tablet computers, have seen firms strategically build up large patent portfolios," the WIPO said.
"As a result, there is concern that increasingly dense webs of overlapping patent rights slow cumulative innovation processes.
"Collaborative approaches, such as patent pools, can to some extent address such concerns.
"However, making sure that crowded patent landscapes do not hold back innovation and entrepreneurship demands careful attention by policymakers."
WIPO chief economist Carsten Fink said there was a risk entrepreneurs may decide to forgo innovative activites and patent institutions therefore had a crucial role to play in ensuring the quality of patents granted and resolving disputes.
There has been a rise in particular in patent applications by universities, notably in China, and public research organisations (PROs), especially in India.
University and PRO filings under the WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty grew from close to zero in the 1980s to more than 15,000 in 2010.
The report, the first in a WIPO series aimed at clarifying and analysing intellectual property rights policy, said global spending on research and development almost doubled in real terms from 1993 to 2009, with China accounting for most of the increase.
© 2011 AFP