With patent data available for no less than 184 WIPO member states, trends in IP can be found all over the world. The largest patent offices often receive the most attention, but many smaller patent zones are experiencing exciting growth and innovation. This week, we will examine IP in the post-Soviet economy of Lithuania.
Lithuania was the first territory to declare its independence during the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then, it has become one of the most successful post-Soviet economies. According to the CIA Factbook, Lithuania has achieved “near complete” privatization of formerly state-owned industries, and established a variety of business-friendly policies.
Between its EU accession in 2004 and the global recession in 2008, Lithuania averaged 8% GDP growth. When the recession hit, however, Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia saw the biggest economic declines in the world. Lithuania’s GDP contracted by 15 percent in the first three quarters of 2009. While unemployment was still very high through 2010, the country is on the mend, with strong growth in late 2009 and continuing modestly through present day. How does IP protection fare in this turbulent economy?
In the early years of its independence, Lithuania’s patenting activity rose with its economy. According to WIPO data, resident applications fell after a peak in the late nineties, then leveled off around the new millennium. In a strange turn of events, resident patent applications rose steadily in the three years between 2008 and 2011, bucking the global trend of falling application numbers as well as Lithuania’s particularly odious recession. During that time, non-resident applications dropped considerably, likely due to the international economic climate.
According to the International Property Rights Index, Lithuania’s overall score for IP Rights protection went unchanged in 2011. Its score of 5.9 for IP Rights protection also saw no progress over last year, though that number still represents a full 1 point increase over its 2007 score of 4.9. The IP score places Lithuania at 40th in the world, and is well above the regional average score of 4.6 (The Central and Eastern European region’s IP score stands out as being lower than its scores in the other metrics, Physical Property and Legal Political Environment, so Lithuania is really a standout in IP).
It is clear that indigenous invention is thriving in Lithuania. Even if its economy fell, and foreign inventors became less interested in the country as a place to file for protection, the fact remains that more and more Lithuanians are innovating. With respectable, if not great, IP protection, and new foreign investment that should be attracted by government policies aiming to jump-start the economy, Lithuania may be set for a renaissance in innovation.