But should we celebrate or be
concerned about the statistics?
Take China. WIPO says that last
year, for the first time, residents of China accounted for the
largest number of patents filed throughout the world. The
country’s IP office, SIPO, received more
applications than any other IP office.
It’s not just in
the patent field where China dominates. Last year, residents of
China filed trade mark applications with more than 1.5 million
class counts – more than three times as many as the
next biggest class filer, the US.
So how should we interpret the
statistics? One interpretation is that they signal a real
change in levels of Chinese innovation and brand creation.
Another is that they represent a flood of applications for
utility model patents and bad faith trade mark filings.
(Chinese companies are far more likely that foreign ones to
apply for lower-value utility models rather than
invention patents in China – a phenomenon that the
government is seeking to change. High levels of trade mark squatting have exasperated
foreign companies entering the Chinese market).
The answer, of course, is
probably a bit of both.
The majority of practitioners
and IP professionals understand that global patent filing
growth rates of 9%-plus and a 6% rise on trade mark class
counts may not be unqualified good news: the pressure on IP
offices, leading to patent thickets and overcrowded registers
and the high cost of challenging duff patents and other IP
rights? are just a few of the potential problems.
But while there might be
agreement that the relentless rise in IP applications is not
necessarily a Good Thing at the aggregate level, is there an
agreement about what should be done about it?
One option, or course, is to do
nothing. Another is for IP lawmakers and examiners to make it
tougher to obtain IP rights. Yet another is for IP attorneys to
discourage their clients from adding to the pile of weak
applications. After all, isn’t improving the
system better for all IP owners and users in the long run?
While the season may be apt for metaphors about turkeys and
Christmas, isn’t that something the profession
should consider? Do you – or should you –
tell clients not to apply for IP rights? Do let us know.