Intellectual Property Rights and Growing Economies: The Path of ‘Directional Innovation’

According to World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Intellectual property is the creation of human minds. The legal right that protects these creations of minds are known as the intellectual Property Rights (IPR). IPR facilitates its owner, the time bond rights to prevent others from using their intellectual property based on predefined and legalized criteria.  Without enhancing the IPR protection, entrepreneurs cannot really commercialize the products in the market, because if the protection system is weak, the firm or the entrepreneur who is really having the intellectual property rights ownership, they are not sure that how long they are really safe and secure in protecting the rights.

So, intellectual property rights are essential for encouraging innovations, but it can create monopoly. Fortunately, the competition law and certain obligations in TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement really have introduced a very wide range of provisions for controlling such monopoly power also.

WIPO monitors the activities in IP yearly and there observation is quite interesting. Worldwide filing of patents, trademarks and industrial designs reached record heights in 2017. Innovators around the world filed 13.72 million patent applications in 2017, representing an eighth consecutive year of growth. Trademark filing activity amounted to 12.39 million, up 26.8% and representing the third consecutive year of double-digit growth. IP offices in Asia together received the highest numbers of applications for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs, including 65.1% of all patent applications worldwide.  Thus, Asia has strengthened its position. From Asia China and Japan has dominated the IP filling. If we see the status of countries world-wide United States of America accounted for 2.98 million patent followed by China with 2.1 million in 2017 . In 2020, applications from China stood first with 0.9% of total Patent and Utility (PCT) model applications followed by US and Japan. IP offices in Asia received the highest numbers of applications for patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs in 2020 with 66.6%, 98.4%, 71.8% and 70.9% of the world total respectively.

The trend of innovations is influenced by ‘directional innovations’. Economists defines ‘directional innovations’  as the combination or sum of all the decisions individuals, firms, universities and governments make on which technological opportunities to pursue at any one time. It is not only a question of how much economies invest in new ideas. The allocation of human and financial resources to different innovation activities can set the direction of innovation of communities, countries and even the world for decades to come. The direction of innovation is not decided single-handedly. It is the result of the dynamic interaction of multiple decisions by entrepreneurs, researchers, consumers and policy makers. The direction of innovation is constantly changing. It is influenced by the choices and interactions of public and private stakeholders looking to benefit from innovation. Over the last few decades after World-War II the ‘direction of innovation’ has changed from medicine research to space research to now information technology (IT) research.

A wave of digitalized general-purpose technologies includes artificial intelligence (AI), predictive technologies, highly sophisticated automation and big data. Digital general purpose technologies are transforming industries by bringing in new innovators, structures, practices and values. These technologies give rise to new industries, such as the Internet of Things (IoT). The COVID-19 vaccine success is an innovation model to build on. The COVID-19 pandemic generated and, in part, accelerated demand for new technologies to combat it. Moreover, the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development and medical trials came at the expense of delaying the approval of other medicines in the pipeline. In both the Second World War and in the space race, the U.S. Government drove demand as the initial and primary customer. In the case of IT development in East Asia, demand was driven by large commercial markets, both domestic and foreign. The main role of the East Asian governments was in supporting domestic private firms with policies that reduced risk and facilitated their access to cutting-edge knowledge and in each of the phases IPR is crucial.