The ABCs of Intellectual Property
Innovation in business has always moved at a tremendous speed. Right now, we feel it is progressing faster than it did 30 years ago, and 30 years in the future, we will most likely say the same. In all fairness, the rush and sheer depth of the innovation currently taking place in industries ranging from information technology to life sciences is remarkable by any standard.
For the most part, the speed of innovation is a good and exciting thing, but to those who want to safeguard their ideas, methods or inventions, it may be a little overwhelming. It is more important than ever for inventors to understand the essential tenets of owning their IP rights, whether they are working independently or as part of a larger organization. Taking proper advantage of all applicable IP protection standards and developing a solid strategy for IP portfolio management requires knowing about the protective options available and understanding the complexities of global IP law and the many variables associated with both factors.
The IP landscape, in a nutshell
There are more ways today for creators to assert their IP rights than there were just a few decades ago. Whether you aim to cement intellectual ownership over a physical snap-lock mechanism for handbag clasps, the design for an interactive heads-up display or the methodology behind a radical system for channeling clean energy, legal protections are now available to you.
Examining the issue of IP ownership in the broadest scale only reinforces one conclusion: most of the world's nations have IP laws of some kind being enforced. Additionally, more than 150 countries are parties to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) overseen by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and nearly as many nations uphold WIPO's similar agreements for trademarks and designs (122 and 90 for the Madrid and Hague Systems, respectively, and counting).
Furthermore, beyond the traditional IP triumvirate of patents, trademarks and copyrights, there are plenty of subcategories in the regulatory codes of various governments to cover individual pieces of IP more specifically. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:
- Separation of utility and design patents in U.S. law
- Provisional IP rights for inventors to hold temporary provenance over an idea while they complete research & development of fabrication
- Protections for original databases, trade secrets, domain names and other types of IP that are increasingly important to such a tech-driven world.
It is hard to view the broadening range of IP protection possibilities described above as anything other than positive. The added opportunities arguably contributed to specific upticks in IP filings across the globe to an undeniably intriguing degree. According to WIPO's report on "IP Facts and Figures 2019," worldwide application submissions for trademarks, patents and industrial designs reached record highs of 14.3 million, 3.3 million and 1.3 million, respectively. Chinese innovators are responsible for 46.4% of those patent filings and the U.S. holds second place with precisely 18% and Japan, South Korea and the European Union round out the top five (9.4%, 6.3% and 5.2%).
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