America still No. 1 in IP protection, Chamber Index says
The United States was again the top-ranked country for intellectual property protection in the recently released U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Index for 2017, but the rankings for the economies of America, the U.K., Japan and the European Union ranked more closely together than ever. No doubt this was significantly due to the United States tumbling to 10th from first on patent system strength.
The United States continues to take steps backward due to a variety of self- inflicted wounds. Among them: the omnipresent threats of more patent reform, a Supreme Court that has created unprecedented uncertainty surrounding what is patent eligible, and a Patent Trial and Appeal Board that has been openly hostile to property owners, allowing harassment of certain patent owners repeatedly while failing in its mission to provide relief from patent trolls.
The 2017 Chamber index marks the first time that the United States has not ranked No. 1. The United Kingdom ranks first, followed by Switzerland; Sweden; Germany; France; Japan; Spain; Singapore; Italy, and the United States.
Other countries making gains
Meanwhile, a number of countries around the world have taken positive steps forward on the patent front, including countries that might not ordinarily be considered patent-friendly jurisdictions.
For example, much has recently been made of the fact that China is aggressively pursuing pro-patent policies and becoming inviting to both patent applicants and as a forum for dispute resolution through litigation in Chinese courts. China has introduced new enforcement mechanisms and specialized IP courts to better combat counterfeiting and piracy; joining it in these efforts were Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Sweden. And while not reflective in the 2017 rankings, China’s recent patent law changes making software and business method patent eligible should result in a significant improvement in the patent landscape moving forward.
Last year also saw multiple governments undertake a review of their IP laws, recognizing that such laws must keep pace with the emerging challenges IP owners face. In South Korea, amendments to its patent act helped streamline and expedite the patent examination process. Likewise, the government of Taiwan began a review of its IP laws in an effort to better comply with standards included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Furthermore, many economies recognized the value of leveraging international partnerships through Patent Prosecution Highways. Countries that signed PPH agreements in 2016 included Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Despite these positive developments, some other countries took unfortunate steps to restrict IP rights in 2016. Ecuador, Russia and South Africa all introduced new requirements for local production, procurement and manufacturing. The hightech sector also continued to face stiff head winds in the Indian market with regard to the scope of software. The Canadian government also continued to apply heightened patent utility standards, and Indonesia introduced a heightened efficacy requirement for patentability and outlawed second-use claims.
At this moment in history, almost everything we thought we knew about the global patent landscape and patent protection in general is being challenged. The United States’ falling from the most patent friendly jurisdiction in the world to being tied for 10th with Hungary really puts into perspective the fall from grace that patent rights are experiencing in America.