Asia has emerged as the leading region to protect intellectual property (IP) rights in the world, which indicates that Asian countries are advancing fast to develop a knowledge-based and invention-oriented society. Though not all the countries are moving in the direction at the same pace, there is a growing urge across the region to be more innovative and secure the innovation to attain commercial gain. The World Intellectual Property Indicators-2022, an annual flagship report of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), released last week shows that Global IP filings for patents, trademarks and industrial designs reached new heights in 2021 and were driven by Asia .
The report further shows that innovators worldwide filed 3.40 million patent applications last year, up 3.60 per cent from the previous year. In the last year, patent offices in Asia received 67.60 per cent of all patent applications worldwide. Ten years earlier, in 2011, Asia's share in all the patent applications filed worldwide was 54.60 per cent. In the last year, like the previous years, China led the patent-seeking applications in Asia. China accounted for 69 per cent of all local applications filed in the region in 2021.
In simple terms, a patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention for 20 years. So the right provides the patent owner the legal authority to decide how or whether others can use the invention. Among the top 10 patent seekers globally, the United States (US) is in the second position, followed by Japan, South Korea, European Union (EU), India, Germany, Canada and Russia.
In the last year, 13.9 million trademark applications were filed in different counties. WIPO has defined a trademark as a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.' Trademarks are generally valid for ten years and renewable after the expiration of the term. The latest report of the WIPO also showed that Asia accounted for 69.70 per cent of all trademark filing activity in the last year, up from 44.7 per cent in 2011. Europe's share, however, declined to 15.70 per cent in 2021 from 31.60 per cent in 2011. The share of North America stood at 5.90 per cent in the last year, while the combined share of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania was 8.7 per cent in 2021.
New filing to seek IP rights for industrial design also jumped significantly in the last year and was driven by China. An estimated 1.2 million industrial design applications were filed in counties globally. These applications contained some 1.5 million designs, which mean some of the single application encloses multiple designs due to the complex nature of drawings and models. WIPO statistics showed that industrial designs increased by 9.20 per cent in the last year. IP office of China alone received applications having 805,710 designs or 53.2 per cent of the world total in the last year.
An industrial design generally represents the decorative aspect of a tangible object. The design may compose of three-dimensional features, such as the shape of an object, or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colours. The design needs to be registered to get IP protection under industrial design law as a 'registered design' or under patent law as 'design patents'.
The surge in IP rights seeking is largely consistent with the global economic recovery in 2021 following the Covid-19 disruption.
As the global economy posted 6 per cent growth in the last year, the fastest growth rate in more than four decades, trade and business activities rebounded strongly to minimise the losses in the previous year.
Patent, trademark and industrial design are core forms of commercial intellectual property rights. However, innovators are also gradually seeking more IP protections under two more forms -- geographical indications (GI) and plant variety (PV). These two forms of IP rights protection are more complicated and sometimes controversial for various reasons.
Against the backdrop, it is necessary to know where Bangladesh stands regarding IP rights protection which is also a good indicator of understanding the country's advancement in innovation and in industrial and technical knowledge.
Unlike the previous years, this year's WIPI does not provide the global ranking of patent or trademark filing. For instance, Bangladesh ranked 110th among 134 countries in the 2020 global ranking in a fresh patent filing. In terms of trademark Bangladesh ranked 60th among 145 countries and 44th among 126 countries in 2020. No such thing is there in WIPI-2021, making it slightly difficult to get a clear idea about a country's status on the global IP regime.
Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) in the last year received 447 new applications seeking patent rights in Bangladesh. The number of applications to get trademarks registered with DPDT stood at 15,527 in the previous year, while applications to get protection for industrial design were 1424. No doubt, the numbers are poor in comparison to many peer countries. Lack of awareness and weak enforcement procedures are two significant barriers to seeking commercial IP protection in Bangladesh. National IP policy needs to addressed these things. The DPDT also requires more resources along with adequate and trained human resources to function smoothly.
The critical department, which is the country's patent office also, must not be left behind, considering the increased global competition in IP filing. Already the country's leading economic and trade partners have expressed dissatisfaction with the weakness of enforcing IP rights protection. In various global platforms, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the IP regime of Bangladesh also comes under close scrutiny, which will intensify in the near future.
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