IP protection is a classic indicator of creative productivity. So how are we doing?
The secret to creativity, Albert Einstein once wrote, is not to disclose your sources. Being caught claiming someone else’s idea as your own, however, is damaging to reputation as well as finances. Legal protection for novel ideas is an ancient concept that is the cornerstone of the modern creative economy.
The creativity of a nation can be measured in part by intellectual property protection. New Zealand’s first patent office was established in 1870, and since then lots of ideas have come and mostly gone, as patents, trademarks or designs. Staking claims on ideas is the way to benefit from creativity.
More political capital has been made and spent on encouraging innovation in New Zealand over the last decade than ever before. After all this, how good are we at harnessing the commercial power of our ideas? What’s new in the protection of Kiwi creativity?
Intellectual property protection appears to be on the rise in the overall trademark trend chart below. But rates of increase are inconsistent. Theories of creative destruction notwithstanding, more ideas don’t generate more ideas as a matter of course. Major international events such as 9–11 have a significant negative impact on our registration of new ideas, likely due to reduced business confidence. Dark times may also reduce the generation of new ideas outright.
Designs worth protecting in New Zealand are taking a new shape. The new trend is to renew fewer protected old designs and register many new designs in their place. New Zealand is better by designing its way forward, and these new marks are the ones to watch.
Nearly 20,000 trademark applications were filed in 2008, but the last three years of month-by-month trademark registrations show declining fortunes in creative capital. Single applications can now be made to cover several different classes of product or protection. Little by little, fewer protected ideas are being put to market. Eighty-five percent of all applicants protect ideas by filing trademark applications online, which should make it easier. Registered trademarks may be better protected than before, but perhaps there are fewer ideas worth protecting.
A review of intellectual property protection and how best it should serve New Zealand business, due for completion in November, should show that excessive bureaucracy stifles protection of creativity, from whatever source. No shame in disclosing that singularly unoriginal idea.