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The Intellectual Property we deserve

November 7, 2022

Intellectual property plays an indisputable role in the qualification of any country-brand. At least, the annual statistics of reports such as the Contribution of the Intellectual Property Intensive Sectors in the European Union and the Global Innovation Index (GII), which show the value of this tool in the most advanced economies, corroborate this.

The Spanish case, let us say, presents figures that would be quite improvable, as we occupy 29th place in the GII. This indicator has its correlation in the figure of investment of 1.4 % of GDP in R D, quite far from the EU target of 2 %, even though this figure has grown at a record pace in the last year thanks to the arrival of the first Next Generation funds (and, despite the wasteland of the statistical series of the previous decade, weighed by the lousy decisions to cut R&D policies that have reduced that growth.)

The factors behind this structural deficit go far beyond what can be dealt with in these few lines[1], even less so when we should not forget that quantity must be accompanied, as much or more, by patents, trademarks, designs, or copyrights of quality and with sufficient strength to oppose competitors from third countries with certain guarantees.

Despite the obviousness of this discourse, when one observes the reality of the intellectual property services market, trends are detected that point dangerously in the opposite direction and that do nothing but delve deeper into the differential that we should aim to reduce by our economic weight.

The changes adopted in public procurement mechanisms, a necessary consequence of past excesses in the management of public funds, have generalised competitive procurement procedures in the Administration; one of the main engines of our innovative system and by a radiation effect this has also been widespread in those of leading private sector companies.

This procedural route of public procurement of services on predefined technical and administrative specifications makes a lot of sense in certain economic sectors, with a high degree of homologable suppliers and on the basis of standardisable services. But this seems of more than doubtful effectiveness if a little attention is paid to certain particularities of the Spanish intellectual property services ecosystem:

  1. The number of professionals with a regulated specialisation in this field and supervised by the respective professional associations is very low. Specifically, we are talking about 300 Industrial Property Agents assigned to COAPI and 120[2] in the EPI, the only two institutions with official recognition. And this base is even more limited in the field of patents, by the immense sectors of technical specialisation, among others: physics, electronics, chemistry, pharmacology, or various engineering fields.
  2. Absence of reservation of legal activity for a relevant part of the services to be tendered, in particular those that can be provided by Intellectual Property Attorneys and which exposes the Spanish market to any “representative”, without considering their technical qualification or guarantees of professional liability.
  3. Forced standardisation of the entire range of services to be included in the contractual specifications, which recklessly seek to define workloads or service lines subject in their execution to conditions external to the contract. We are talking about the decision-making power of the different administrations or courts before which we act and the actions of third parties with conflicting interests.
  4. Quality controls difficult to verify, if not fictitious, for the sole purpose of covering on paper the requirements of the law. This guarantee, which could be provided by the professional associations, is excluded in a good part of the potential awardees, in favor of a supposed improvement in competition.


The intrinsic result of this procurement model is, as it cannot be otherwise, a huge pressure on the awarded tariffs that, ultimately, does little to help in the accumulation of factors that make up our international positioning in the competitiveness rankings.

Let us not forget that no one questions the premise that without a significant increase in the resources allocated to the entire innovation system we will hardly scale positions, but it seems that the same is not the case when it comes to allocating resources to protecting this effort.

[1] A few days ago there has been the advancement of the date referred to report of the Observatory of Engineering in Spain  pointing out that in the next decade we will need 200,000 engineers (vid. THE AVANT-GARDE 17/10/2022)

[2] Figures obtained from the EPO bb.dd from registered professionals who have obtained the qualification of European Patent Attorney and are recorded as free practitioners of the profession.

Article by Joan Salvà published on the elderecho.com website on November 4, 2022

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