Australia is 13th in a new global index that ranks countries for their laws and policies in relation to intellectual property protection.
The US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center has produced its seventh International IP Index. It ranks 50 countries based on 45 indicators across eight categories, including patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, commercialisation of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency, and membership and ratification of international treaties.
The report says the increasing importance of IP to the global economy is reflected in the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China, India's 8-place climb in the rankings, and positive reforms in Brazil and Argentina.
"The data in the US Chamber International IP Index, now in its 7th edition, continue to point to a direct linkage between the strength and enforceability of a country’s IP rights and its ability to capitalize on domestic innovative and creative capacity, as well as to access the world’s innovations," says the report.
"Starting from a low global IP standard, progress has been slow and inconsistent. Yet there are obvious green shoots, seen most clearly in the adoption of broader measures to improve the systemic efficiency of IP rights administration and the ability of IP owners to leverage their rights to finance innovative and creative activities."
The US topped the rankings, followed in the top 10 by the UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland and Singapore.
Australia improved one place in the rankings compared to last year, coming in at 13, but its overall score declined slightly from 80.27 to 80.13.
New Zealand remained at 16 but its overall score also declined - from 68.92 to 68.07.
The report praised Australia for being a global leader on copyright enforcement in the online space, maintaining a system of injunctive relief that permits the disabling of foreign-hosted infringing websites, new laws that impose penalities for industrial espionage on behalf of a foreign state entity, and no administrative or regulatory burdens in place that hinder licensing activity.
However, it marked Australia down for a pre-grant opposition system that has introduced delays to patent grants, as well as the absence of an effective patent notification system that it says "creates uncertainty for biopharmaceutical innovators".
It also criticised Australia over its pursuit of pharmaceutical companies for 'market size damages' "aimed at compensating the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme for any higher price paid for a patented medicine during the period of a provisional enforcement measure".
The representative body of the US research-based pharmaceutical industry, PhRMA, has also criticised the policy. It has used its Special 301 submission to the Office of the United States Trade Representative to call for Australia's inclusion on its 'Watch List'.
The report criticises New Zealand for having "No patent term restoration in place for biopharmaceuticals" and its limited membership in international IP treaties.