A Change in Year Brings Change in IP Laws and Policy

The intellectual property (IP) concepts that are applied today to the national laws and international treaties and organizations dating back to the eighteenth century.  The IP laws vary from one country to another. The changes in Intellectual property laws also depend on the changes in technology. Due to emerging new technologies and R&D activities, intellectual property also continues to be constantly evolving and changing.

Over the years countries worldwide have made efforts to make the IP system more efficient and effective. This is because countries have realized that Intellectual property plays a significant role in promoting the economy of the country. Intellectual property is one of the fields that majorly encourages international collaborations, especially in the last 20 years. The importance of IP will continue to expand dramatically.

The changes in the last two decades in the IP system are much more visible. The year 2013 has already passed while bringing many new changes in the IP. Changes were made ranging from IP laws and policies, and update in internet-based database coverage of patents thereby streamlining the IP system. This has been a remarkable year for USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office) and EPO (European Patent Office). On January 1st, 2013 a highly refined patent classification scheme known as the Cooperative Patent Classification was launched which is jointly managed by the EPO and the USPTO. This classification system is also adopted by SIPO (State Intellectual Property Office, China) and KIPO (Korean Intellectual Property Office).

The Patent Translate tool managed by EPO, which is a machine translation of patent applications, was already available in 21 languages. Russian, Chinese, and Japanese were added this year. Moreover, EPO and PATENTSCOPE have also started adding patent information in the database from other countries as well. WIPO has added China’s national patent collection to the searchable PATENTSCOPE database. EPO has added patent data, especially from Asia.

Efforts are made for streamlining patent procedures for applicants wishing to obtain patent protection in a wide number of counties around the world. One such effort is made by members of the European Union (EU) by introducing the Unitary patent package (Unitary patent & Unified Patent Court). Unitary patents will be treated as a single patent in potentially 25 European Union (EU) member states and will not require separate validation and translation in each of those member states. The aim of the unitary patent system is to make Europe more attractive for investors and to bring Europe more into line with patent systems in Asia and the US. The regulations entered into force on 20 January 2013.

Another remarkable event this year was the enforcement of the new Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) in the USA which represents the most significant change to the US patent system. This act is designed to bring US law in line with the rest of the world.  The Act switches the U.S. patent system from a “first to invent” to a “first inventor to file” system i.e. it shifts the systems’ emphasis from the date it was invented to the date its inventor dropped an application at the patent office.

Developed nations have always realized the significance of IP in promoting socio-economic growth. Fortunately, many developing countries are also now increasingly becoming aware of the importance of IP. For instance this year India joined the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, which will provide an opportunity to the Indian companies to register a trademark in foreign countries. The policymakers in Africa are also making efforts to develop their intellectual property legislation and policy, to enable sustainable development and growth. Tunisia, which is one of the African countries also joined the Madrid System. 2013 is another significant year with loads of new reforms in the IP system. Indian Patent Office also starts functioning as International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority under the PCT this year.

But as we say there is always room for improvement, still there are many critical areas that require close scrutiny in the IP system. New technologies bring new challenges to the IP system. However, the countries worldwide are making efforts to ensure the effective and efficient IP policies.

About the Author: Ms. Harsha Rohatgi, Patent Associate, Khurana & Khurana, Advocates, and IP Attorneys and can be reached at harsha@khuranaandkhurana.com

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