News Roundup

April 2006

Open Forum on the Draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty

What should be the purposes and limits of international patent law harmonization? How might the definitions of prior art, novelty and inventive step be harmonized? To what extent should exclusions from patentability be harmonized? What can be done to improve patent quality? What is the impact on upstream research of increased patenting in the life sciences? How well does the current patent system serve public health objectives? What alternative models exist to promote innovation?

These were just a few of the questions addressed by speakers at the Open Forum on the Draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT), hosted by WIPO from March 1 to 3. The forum, which was open to the public, resulted from a decision by Member States at the 2005 General Assembly, and was conceived to help clarify the future of negotiations to conclude an international treaty that would harmonize substantive patent law. While these negotiations have made headway since they were launched in May 2001, a number of issues are outstanding, and Member States have expressed divergent views on the future work plan of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP).

Eminent scientists, industry representatives and legal experts joined speakers from civil society and governments for three days of wide-ranging discussion. The well-attended forum was characterized by a will to avoid polarized debate in the interest of a genuine exchange of information and experience regarding the complexities of patent harmonization.

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Madrid System – Record Numbers of Filings

Registrations from companies in Turkey increased by over 30 percent in 2005. This one was filed for use with e.g. cosmetics, food and drinks.

A record 33,565 international trademark applications were received in 2005 by WIPO under the Madrid system – a 13.9 percent increase on the previous year’s figures. Germany topped the list for the 13 th consecutive year. Applications from developing countries – led by China – increased by 30.6 percent over 2004. China also unseated Switzerland as the most designated country in international trademark applications.

WIPO Director General Kamil Idris welcomed the continuing growth in WIPO’s IP registrations services to the private sector as reflecting the growing integration of these procedures into business strategies. Mr. Ernesto Rubio, WIPO Assistant Director General who oversees trademark questions, added "all companies large and small can reap significant time and cost savings in using the Madrid system." He highlighted the use of the Madrid system by small and medium-sized enterprises.

In its second full year as a member of the Madrid system, the United States of America moved from sixth to third place, with a 63.9 percent increase in international filings. Other countries showing a marked increase in international trademark applications in 2005 include Australia, Bulgaria, China, Japan, Singapore and Turkey.


IP Hall of Fame

A 1903 advertisement for Thomas Edison’s “perfected phonograph” – just one of his 1,093 U.S. patented inventions. (Image: Edison Records)

Arpad Bogsch, Director General of WIPO from 1963 to 1997, under whose leadership the Patent Cooperation Treaty was established, is among the first inductees in a new IP Hall of Fame, which was launched in February by the Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) magazine, London.

A panel of IP experts drawn from industry, academia and law, selected 23 contemporary and historical figures, all of whom were judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the development of IP law and practice. Notable historical figures included:

  • Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth Presidents of the United States of America, who were both instrumental in ensuring that IP rights were specifically safeguarded in the U.S. constitution.
  • Minister Korekiyo Takahashi, the first commissioner of the Japanese Patent Office, recognized as the founding father of the Japanese patent system with his promulgation of the Patent Monopoly Act in 1885.
  • The great 19 th century French author, Victor Hugo who, as Honorary President and founder of the Association Litteraire et Artistique Internationale, was a prime mover behind the creation of the Berne Convention on Copyright.
  • Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors and industrial leaders in history, who obtained an extraordinary 1,093 U.S. patents for his inventions.

IAM editor Joff Wild explained: "For many organizations now, patent, trademark and copyright rights are the most important assets they own. By creating the IP Hall of Fame we hope to publicize the hugely valuable work all the inductees have done in developing this vital asset class, which not only helps to drive the global economy but also makes a significant contribution to the wellbeing of people around the world."

IAM will induct new members to the IP Hall of Fame each year, and is planning the launch, later this year, of an online IP Museum and resource center, designed to make IP issues more accessible to the general public.


7 Millionth U.S. Patent Issued

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced on February 14 the issue of patent No. 7 million to DuPont senior researcher John P. O’Brien for "polysaccharide fibers" and a process for their production. The biodegradable fibers have cotton-like properties, and are useful in textile applications.

The USPTO reports that it took 75 years to get from patent No.1 to patent 1 million, but less than one tenth of that time to go from 6 million to 7 million patents.

Patent No. 1 was issued in 1836. Earlier patents were not numbered, although the first U.S. patent was issued in 1790.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.