Every year the World Intellectual Property Organisations (WIPO) celebrates World IP Day.

World Intellectual Property Day

This day reminds us of how individual nations having different politics and laws can come together and find common ground in protecting the innovations and ideas of individuals, businesses and commerce. Internationalisation of the intellectual property system proceeds slowly but inexorably towards harmonised international rights.

For patents, we have the international patent system under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, overseen by the World Intellectual Property Office at Geneva. Although there is no such thing as a world wide patent, the international patent application allows 30 months of provisional protection in 142 states. In the past year, one more state, Thailand, has joined the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

For trade marks, we have the international trade mark registration system under the Madrid Agreement and Protocol. In the past year, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, and Liberia have become party to the international trade mark system, bringing the total number of members to 81 although there are even more states participating as part of the European Unions membership.

For industrial designs, Poland, Serbia, Germany and Oman became party to the international registered design system under the Hague agreement, in 2009, bringing the total number of members to 57. The system includes yet more countries as part of the EU.

Co-operation between the European Patent Office, the Japanese Patent Office and the US Patent Trade Mark Office using the PCT Patent Prosecution Highway is underway to harmonise and streamline examination at the three main industrial property offices of the world, with the objective of saving time, reducing cost, reducing duplication of effort, and ensuring higher quality of patent examination.

At the European regional level, the European Union have expressed a wish to join as a designated region at the end of the existing European patent system. This will effectively give a single EU wide patent for the full maximum 20 year term, significantly reducing the cost of patent protection throughout the European Union and enabling much wider geographic coverage than the current patch work of protection after grant of a European patent.

For European trade marks and designs, the system is already harmonised throughout the European Union including all EU member states using the Community registered trade mark, and the registered Community design systems both of which are quick, efficient and relatively cost effective.

At the level of intellectual property enforcement, further harmonisation needs to occur within Europe for centralised litigation of European patents, to compliment the existing harmonised central litigation for European trade marks and designs.

Although progress is slow, every year the intellectual property system becomes more harmonised, more geographically inclusive and more cost effective, and internationalisation of the intellectual property system appears to be an unstoppable force.

Dr. Robert Franks, European Patent and Trade Mark Attorney and Director of Franks & Co Limited

Article Published April 23rd, 2010