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The US and Japan offer the world’s two most competitive IT environments, according to a recent report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. According to an "IT industry competitiveness index", published as part of the report, both offer “an ample supply of skills, an innovation-friendly culture, world-class technology infrastructure, a robust legal regime and well-balanced government support, not to mention a competition-friendly business environment”. The other countries making up the top 5 are, in order, South Korea, the UK and Australia.
Among the conclusions the EIU reaches in the report containing the index is that: “The legal regime is an important differentiator. Open competition in IT must be supported by robust protection for intellectual property rights (IPR). The US and west European countries - thanks partly to the galvanising efforts of the European Union - stand heads above the rest in the degree of protection afforded and in enforcement. A vigorous IPR regime is not incompatible with an “open approach” to innovation in IT.”
Interestingly in this regard, the countries at the top of the Index have very different views on the patentability of software. While the US, Australia and South Korea are, to a greater or lesser extent, relatively accommodating in protecting software-related inventions, the UK is less so - to the extent that the approach of one distinguished English judge has been directly criticised by an EPO board of appeal. The Japanese, meanwhile, sit somewhere in between the US and the UK – although the trend does seem to be moving towards greater tolerance of software patent grants.
That said, the EIU sees the legal infrastructure in a country as being much less important than other factors, such as IT infrastructure, human capital, R&D environment and support for IT industry development. Of course, it could be that all of these are actually affected by the IP infrastructure of a country (in other words, for example, maybe a company is more likely to invest in R&D or to attract funding for R&D, if the right IP protection is available); but it could also well be that, if the EIU is right, the vitriolic nature of the debate around software patents is actually little more than hot air because, in the end, as long as there is legal certainty – of whatever kind – other factors are far more important in ensuring strong competition in the IT industry.
In other words, if you know where you stand from a legal perspective you can plan around this, feel freer to take decisions and to make spending commitments. However, if you have no idea whether you can get protection and then enforce it, you may well be less inclined either to invest in an IT company or to get one up and running in the first place.
Joff: So your premise is that a well protected business would be more willing to take risks knowing that their ideas will be legally and financially sound? I would say this is true for most companies, but there are many companies that blunder forward with no IP protection. How best to get the word out? Maybe a visit to http://www.innovators-network.org will help out. The Innovators Network is dedicated to entrepreneurship, small businesses, Intellectual Property protection, and venture capital. Please join us and help our community grown. Regards, Anthony KuhnAnthony Kuhn, Innovators Network on 07 Aug 2007
I could agree more with your post. For all the focus on the danger of software patents, the data clearly show that regions that have embraced software patents are still the world leaders in innovation. In fact, our research team here at ACT did a paper that placed IPR regimes as one of the key national policies for creating a platform for innovation.
http://www.actonline.org/library/International_Innovation_Policy.htmlMark Blafkin, Association for Competitive Technology on 09 Aug 2007
Hi Joff. This debate is generating some sound comment and business logic. Nothing new from me, just repeating the same comments from a few weeks back. European SME's are confused by its own regulators who are putting our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Why Brussels can't see this is truly amazing. If I were the US SW industry I'd be giggling at the ineptitude of it all and grabbing as much land as possible.
The truth will come out at some point but for now we need some educators and pioneers out there in the market showing what can be done. I was accused last week by a new client of selling sex--some mysterious unknown black art thing. Its not that at all, its really not that hard to comprehend.
Brussels will not change in our lifetimes, Gowers missed the point, its a bit like Kyoto compliance, just go and do it and show the difference. Ignore anyone who doesn't get it, they will one day.Andrew Watson, ipVA on 16 Aug 2007