The state of inventiveness in Europe 2023
As we celebrate World-Wide IP Day, it is not difficult to spot the hundreds of European inventors that have contributed to making our lives healthier, easier, and more productive: the pioneers of Messenger RNA technology for COVID-19 vaccines such as Katalin Karikó; the inventors of MP3, Karl Heinz Brandenburg, and of Bluetooth, Jaap Haartsen; and the creators of the contact lens, Otto Wichterle; the CD player, Kornelis A. Schouhamer Immink; the portable defibrillator, Frank Pantridge, and the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, to name a few.
However, when debating the actual state of inventiveness activity in Europe, one should check beyond those singular examples and question whether the continent is effectively using all its creative potential to boost our society and economy with innovation. And how Europe compares to other innovative regions of the world. In this regard, it becomes striking that Europe only files half of the patents it should compared to its scientific production and the patenting rates of its global competitors, namely the US, China, Japan, and Korea. And this is troubling as the patent system becomes key to making sure innovation happens in the first place, and that the investments needed to bring those to the market are stimulated and protected.
There are several ways Europe can strengthen its inventiveness quotient and become more competitive by enhancing its patent system. Here are just a few high-impact suggestions:
How can Europe strengthen their inventiveness quotient
There are several ways Europe can strengthen its inventiveness quotient and become more competitive by enhancing its patent system. Here are just a few high-impact suggestions.
Ensure full protection of inventions
The narrow interpretation at the European Patent Office on the content of patent applications usually results in patent grantings that protect only a fraction of the patentable material disclosed in the patent. Cleft patents leave inventors and technology corporations unprotected to design around by competitors who just need to take advantage of the loopholes the patent system has left. Such poor protection discourages investment in patents and in the business that would take those to the market.
The cost of applying for and maintaining a patent in Europe can be prohibitively high for many inventors and startups. Reducing costs or offering discounts for small businesses and individual inventors can make the process more accessible and encourage more people to apply for patents. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a patent in Europe is about 5 times higher than in the US. This can be a significant barrier for small businesses and individual inventors who may not have the financial resources to pursue patent protection
Enhance protection for inventors and SMEs
In a nutshell, The European Patent System is complex, expensive, and inflexible, which results in an unbalance between those large corporations that can afford to file thousands of patents to protect their technology assets and those individual inventors and technology start-ups that need to bet on a handful of key patents to protect the value they create. Because of complexity and inflexibility, any loophole in a patent portfolio with a few patent filings becomes much more critical than the same in a vast portfolio that can afford to protect key inventions from multiple angles. If we want technology start-ups to flourish in Europe as much as it does in other regions of the world, we need to make a European Patent System that is powerful, flexible, and affordable for SMEs.
Enforcing patent rights can be more difficult in Europe than in the US due to the fragmented nature of the European patent system. This can create challenges for inventors who need to defend their patents against infringement. Strengthening the new Unitary Patent system and making it available to every country of the UE will boost the value and effectiveness of European patents. Also, a unified patent system will ensure that fundamental rights such as Intellectual Property rights can be consistently defended across the entirety of Europe regardless of the local weaknesses and particularities of national court systems.
It is urgent for Europe to develop a unified, affordable, consistent, reliable, and predictable patent system. If we Europeans want to make sure that the full potential of our inventors can be successfully released to deliver our inventions to society, we need to work together to make the European Patent System the top one in the world.
To read the complete in-depth article that was published in IAM magazine on 23 February 2023, please read The State inventiveness in Europe 2023.