The Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, last month released the second edition of its International IP Index. The Index has been expanded to cover 25 major trading countries – and uses 30 different factors to score them on their performance, good or bad, in protecting intellectual property rights. The idea is to present IP issues in a rigorous statistical format. I suggest you glance at the GIPC’s report, Charting The Course, to get all the details on the thirty factors as they apply to the 25 markets. The overall results are below:
There may be more interest in the details: who improved and who got worse since the first edition. No surprise that there was bad news out of India, seemingly determined to keep last place in the Index. Weak enforcement, compulsory licensing, revoked patents and weak legislation continue to rule the day. GIPC marks South Africa down for weak protection of pharmaceutical patents, given poor protection of clinical data and no way to extend pharma patent expirations. Canada, though scoring well overall, gets pinged by GIPC for its copyright rules and pharmaceutical protections. But, due to a recently completed negotiation with the European Union, Canada’s environment for intellectual property protection may get a meaningful boost. Ukraine is weak in every area except for signing treaties (which it then apparently doesn’t implement). Australia is in their crosshairs for its plain-packaging requirement for tobacco products. I suppose it depends on how much you enjoy inhaling cigarette smoke.
China, perhaps a surprise, has been a stand-out performer for protecting patents. That said, the rest of China’s IP regime is sorely neglected and needs work. I would venture to suggest that China uses its rules on trade secrets and trademarks as economic weapons. Russia, also a surprise, is showing promise in improved copyright protection. And Malaysia is becoming a poster-child for copyright protection in South East Asia.
I support GIPC’s work and many of its findings, but am I alone in detecting bias that reflects the strong interests of U.S. Chamber members? Granted, they face huge IP problems in foreign markets, but there may just be a bit of overemphasis on issues faced by the U.S. pharmaceutical and tobacco industries. Their issues shouldn’t be viewed simply as IP issues. We need to take public health interests into account to achieve a more balanced report. Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade is an oft over-used excuse for countries to do whatever they wish in trade, but it is still a useful guide:
Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which could constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any contracting party of measures:
(a) necessary to protect public morals;
(b) necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health; …
(e) relating to the products of prison labor;
(f) imposed for the protection of national treasures of artistic, historic or archaeological value; …
You get the idea.