Saturday, April 7, 2018

Solar Panels: Technological Innovation Prompts Profound Shifts

Technological innovation – as the main form of intangible capital – is prompting profound shifts in the global manufacturing value chain for photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are increasingly found worldwide.

Solar panels have moved from highly specialized products to low-cost commodities, putting pressure on producers. Between 2008 and 2015 prices fell by an estimated 80 percent. In particular, companies have reduced production costs by investing in more powerful production equipment, realizing efficiencies through complementary process innovations and achieving large scale production.

Chinese manufacturers have progressively increased their market share, putting many traditional PV manufacturers in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, as well as some firms within China, under competitive pressure, resulting in bankruptcies and acquisitions.

The WIPR 2017 shows that overall patent filings in the photovoltaic sector have declined since 2011.  In the U.S., Europe and Japan – the traditional sources of innovation in the sector – the decline has been sharp, due to the exit of many firms. However, the surviving firms in these areas have stepped up their investments in research and development (R&D) to develop new PV technologies.

In China, patenting has continued to grow in the sector, including from new firms that have entered the sector. Yet, the proportion of Chinese solar panel patent applications filed in other countries remains below 2 percent.

Many companies are seeking growth in local service markets – such as the installation of solar panels in private homes. In such consumer markets, company and product branding are key intangible assets that help attract consumers and project finance.

Coffee: New Consumer Preferences Driving Value

Technology plays a key role in the transformation of a coffee bean into a cup of brew. The WIPR 2017 maps patent data in the sector, finding that innovation across the supply chain increases in activities closer to consumers. This includes the processing of beans and the final distribution of coffee products, such as the coffee capsules found in many homes and offices.

Brand reputation and image allow firms to differentiate their offering from those of their rivals and play an important role in all coffee market segments, including soluble and roasted coffee sold in grocery stores, as well as espresso-based coffee products sold in retail coffeehouses.

Shifting consumer preferences have progressively transformed the global coffee value chain, moving from consumption in the home, then in coffeehouses and now to a new generation of discerning consumers who are interested in their coffee product’s back story, willing to pay premium prices.
Prices commanded in this so-called “third wave” market segment can exceed those in “first wave” consumption by more than four times, with coffee farmers’ incomes tripling. While still small in size, this fast-growing market segment offers new opportunities for greater participation in the global value chain by developing economies. In particular, information on the origin and variety of the coffee beans, how they were farmed and processed, and farmers’ compensation become integral to selling coffee.

Responding to the shifting consumer preferences, coffee growers and even countries are investing in efforts to move beyond generic coffee, adopting their own branding strategies.

Smartphones: Substantial Returns Driven by Intangible Capital


Apple and Samsung dominate the market for high-end phones that cost more than USD 400, with market shares of 57 percent and 25 percent, respectively. In this segment, crucial intangible assets include technology, the design of hardware and software, and branding. The WIPR 2017 finds that for every iPhone 7 that Apple sells for approximately USD 810, about 42 percent of the sales price is captured by Apple – a proxy for the high returns from intangible capital in the industry. Huawei and Samsung also capture significant value in their top-end smartphone models, despite their lower consumer prices and sales volume.

The WIPR 2017 also finds that component makers - like Corning Inc., the producer of iPhone Gorilla Glass – and technology providers including Nokia Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., use intangible assets to capture substantial value.

Smartphone firms and technology providers rely heavily on patents, trademarks and industrial designs, generating a high return on their intangible capital. Indeed, in the domain of patents, up to 35 percent of all first filings worldwide may relate to smartphones. The report finds that the 4th-generation (4G) cellular standard used today is associated with close to four times more patents than the 2nd-generation standard.

Another particularly fast growing area of filing activity concerns graphical user interfaces (GUIs), such as icons for mobile apps. For example, Apple filed 222 designs on GUIs at the European Union Intellectual Property Office between 2009 and 2014, while Samsung filed 379.

30% Value of Manufactured Goods comes from Intellectual Capital

According to World Intellectual Property Report 2017, 30% value of manufactured products sold around the world comes from intellectual capital, such as branding, design and technology.

An amount of USD 5.9 trillion in 2014, shows that intangible capital contributes twice as much as buildings, machinery and other forms of tangible capital to the total value of manufactured goods.

"Intangible capital will increasingly determine the fate and fortune of firms in today’s global value chains. It is behind the look, feel, functionality and general appeal of the products we buy and it determines success in the marketplace," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. "Intellectual property, in turn, is the means by which companies secure the competitive advantage flowing from their intangible capital."

Three product groups - food products, motor vehicles and textiles, account for close to 50% of total income generated by intangible capital in the manufacturing global value chains.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

CPTPP as of 21 Feb 2018

The legally verified text of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was released on 21 Feb 2018 by New Zealand government (https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements-concluded-but-not-in-force/cptpp/comprehensive-and-progressive-agreement-for-trans-pacific-partnership-text/)

According to Chapter 18 Intellectual Property of the agreement:
- introduction of sound marks
- patent term adjustment (to compensate the patent owner) for unreasonable curtailment (of pharmaceutical product as a result of marketing approval process)
- biologics (protection of data)
- watch system for pharmaceutical patent owner
- copyright term adjustment to life of author plus 70 years after death or 70 years (certain works)
- border measures to suspend suspected counterfeit goods
- Malaysia must accede  Madrid Protocol, Budapest Treaty, Singapore Treaty, and UPOV