International IP Index 2021: United States Remains Second in Patent Rankings, Global IP Framework Holds Strong Amid Pandemic

By Eileen McDermott
March 25, 2021

“The 2021 Index ‘illustrates that economies with the most effective IP frameworks are more likely to achieve the socio-economic benefits needed to combat COVID-19, including greater access to venture capital, increased private sector investment in research and development, and over 10 times more clinical trial activity.’”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) released its ninth annual International IP Index yesterday, finding that the United States, Japan and Europe remained at the top of the global intellectual property rankings, while emerging markets like the United Arab Emirates, China and Mexico continued to improve their scores. Despite the pandemic, the overall global IP environment improved, and the report underscored the critical role that strong IP economies have played in combating COVID-19.

International IP Index

The report, titled “Recovery Through Ingenuity,” covers the IP framework in 53 global economies across 50 unique indicators. 32 of these 53 economies had positive improvements in their scores over the 2020 report.

IP Will be Key to Global Economic Recovery

According to a GIPC press release, the 2021 Index “illustrates that economies with the most effective IP frameworks are more likely to achieve the socio-economic benefits needed to combat COVID-19, including greater access to venture capital, increased private sector investment in research and development, and over 10 times more clinical trial activity.”

The Index found that effective IP regimes “enabled the development of a pipeline of therapeutics solutions to combat COVID-19,” including vaccines that were developed with the benefit of decades of scientific research that was quickly employed for use during the pandemic. These vaccines were only able to be developed at unprecedented speed thanks to public-private partnership, said the report. “As governments pivot their focus to the distribution of the vaccine, IP will be critical to facilitating licensing and technology transfer while also expediting the manufacturing and delivery of vaccines and therapeutics,” said the report.

At the same time, the report highlighted steps taken in some countries that the GIPC said work to “undermine the framework that successfully enabled coronavirus-related innovation.” For instance:

  • In Israel, Hungary, and Russia, governments issued compulsory licenses for COVID-19 therapeutics.
  • Other economies, including Chile, Colombia, and Indonesia called for or enacted new laws that expand the criteria for compulsory licensing.
  • At the World Trade Organization (WTO), India and South Africa issued a proposal to waive IP rights on all COVID-19 related medicines, devices, and technologies through the TRIPS Council waiver.

There has been much debate about whether these steps will actually harm innovation in the long term.

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Eye on Emerging Economies

Since 2012, when the inaugural edition of the Index was published, China’s score has increased 18.34% while India’s improved 13.44%. Mexico had the second largest overall increase in score this year (3.87%), following legislative changes made as a result of the implementation of commitments in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). “However, Mexico forfeited more substantive gains for life sciences IP protection when critical protections were removed from the final agreement,” said the GIPC release.

China had the largest overall increase in score between 2020-2021 at 3.90% and an overall 2021 score of 54.86%. Like Mexico, China’s improved score is attributed in part to legislation implemented in response to a trade agreement with the United States. “These changes, if implemented effectively, should improve China’s domestic IP regime,” said the GIPC. “However, ongoing market access barriers, uneven enforcement, measures requiring forced technology transfer, and serious deficiencies in the rule of law continue to make the business environment in China highly challenging for rightsholders.”

U.S. IP Regime Stays Strong – But There’s Room for Improvement

The United States’ 2021 overall score was 95.31%, with a .03% change from the 2020 IP Index. The UK, Germany, France and Japan follow in the top five overall scores. Of those, Germany’s score improved the most, with a 1.19% increase.

International IP IndexThe report found that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) guidance on patent eligible subject matter led to a “statistically significant decrease in the first office rejections for Alice-related technologies” and USPTO proposed changes to the inter partes review process on patent validity challenges were also cited as a positive step.

The three areas of weakness identified for the United States were:

  • Proposals for compulsory licensing as a pharmaceutical cost containment policy
  • Continued uncertainty over patentability for high-tech sectors
  • Lack of a targeted legal basis for addressing online piracy, along the lines of other global leaders

Like last year, in the category of “Patents, Related Rights and Limitations,” Singapore scored highest, with 97.22%, followed by Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States, all of which had the same score of 94.44% for second place.  “IP continues to be a massive economic driver for jobs and investment,” said the GIPC. “In the United States alone, IP supports over $6 trillion in GDP and more than 45 million jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

International IP Index

“The international IP system gave the innovative scientific community the capacity to respond to the global pandemic,” said David Hirschmann, President and CEO of GIPC in a statement. “Countries with the most effective IP ecosystems – as measured by the 2021 Index – become trusted partners in our mission to develop, manufacture, and distribute the solutions needed to defeat COVID-19 in record time. Now is the time to build greater international consensus and capacity on IP, to enable all countries and the next generation to build a sustained economic recovery through ingenuity.”

The Author

Eileen McDermott

Eileen McDermott is the Editor-in-Chief of IPWatchdog.com. Eileen is a veteran IP and legal journalist, and no stranger to the intellectual property world, having held editorial and managerial positions at several publications and industry organizations. She has acted as editorial consultant for the International Trademark Association (INTA), chiefly overseeing the editorial process for the Association’s twice-monthly newsletter, the INTA Bulletin. Eileen has also served as a freelance editor for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); as senior consulting editor for the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) from 2015 to 2017; as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief at INTA from 2013 to 2016; and was Americas Editor for Managing Intellectual Property magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 3 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. MaxDrei March 26, 2021 5:11 am

    Thinking about C19 and the balance between State and private sector innovation and investment, vaccine supply to the world and the Chamber’s Table of rankings, I am reminded of the man with a hammer, for which everything looks like a nail. Is the Chamber, by any chance, writing to please those who pay for it?

    The vaccines developed by China and Russia are effective and have already been supplied to over 40 countries whereas neither the USA nor the UK has any spare vaccine doses available for anybody but its own population. Trite, I know, to say it but we are none of us safe until all of us are safe. I look forward to the day when, world-wide, everybody has received their vaccine jab.

  2. Anon March 26, 2021 9:17 am

    What does your “motherhood and apple pie” views have to do with either the topic of this thread or patent law in general?

  3. PTO-Indentured March 26, 2021 2:24 pm

    Invalidate — U.S. patents to — ‘Second-Rate’

    Coincidence? You be the (non-constitutional) judge.

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