COVID-19 has impacted almost every business in every country around the world with entire industries having to pause, and millions of employees furloughed or laid off. However, smart businesses all around the world have realized that innovation, and the protection of that innovation, is even more important now than it ever has been.
This increase in innovation has already been seen in China where the virus hit first. After dropping in February, patent applications at CNIPA were 9.5% higher in March 2020 than they were in the same month in 2019. Meanwhile, Huawei has announced it will increase R&D spending by 33% to $20M in 2020. There is precedent for this increase in investment in innovation during a crisis. According to the Board of Innovation, when Gartner looked at 30 F1000 companies that grew during the recession of 2008, all of them invested in new growth options instead of just cutting costs.
Thirty-one companies and one research institution have been included in the Derwent Top 100 Global Innovators list every year since its inception. On average, they have operated for over a century, innovating through World Wars, pandemics, market crashes, depressions and recessions. They have seen markets ebb and flow, new technologies quickly rise and rapidly become obsolete while witnessing dramatic societal change. But the spark of innovation still burns brightly. They re-invented. They evolved. They kept up. They created entire industries. And they continue to lead.
The need for IP analytics
The best businesses will look to control costs due to the financial impact of the pandemic and that may involve outsourcing IP tasks or pruning patent portfolios to eliminate renewal costs. However, innovative companies will also look to analyze their patent portfolios and those of their competitors to identify opportunities to leverage existing inventions in new areas, maximize patent licensing revenue and keep on top of market developments. When faced with uncertainty, innovators need the clarity that intellectual property analytics can provide.
Trademark applications on the rise
Trademark filings have long been recognized as a key indicator of commercial activity. CompuMark filing statistics show that, as usual in a financial crisis, trademark applications fell as soon as the lockdown began. However, early indications show that we have already seen the green shoots of recovery. In Spain where the impact was large and sudden, trademark filings returned to 2019 levels in the last week of April. This return to 2019 levels has also been seen at the EUIPO, while in the United Kingdom and Australia applications have overtaken previous year performance over the last two weeks.
The negative impact of COVID-19 on trademark filing in the United States was less acute than most other countries, but we can also see here that the recovery appears to be taking hold. April 30 saw the highest number of applications of any day in 2020 so far.
It remains to be seen what the impact of COVID-19 on domain name registration will be, however, MarkMonitor data shows that domain registrations related to the pandemic have surpassed 100,000 since January 1, 2020. Unsurprisingly, the largest surge occurred in the week following the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, with daily registrations then doubling to more than 4,000 per day.
A large global event like COVID-19 will undoubtedly have a long-lasting effect on every business. Innovative companies will use this moment to pivot to new ventures, uncover opportunities via IP analytics, protect their valuable intellectual property and invest in innovation. History shows us that investment in research and development is a winning strategy and we can already begin to see via patent and trademark statistics that this lesson has been learned by many leading companies around the world. Now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal, it’s time to accelerate innovation.