World Intellectual Property Report 2017 released – ‘Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains’

Coffee, photovoltaics and smartphones don’t seem to have much in common.

But this year’s just released World Intellectual Property Report examines the global value chains for each of these products and the role of intangible capital in these supply chains.

As WIPO chief, Frances Gurry notes:

Intangible capital – notably in the form of technology, design and branding – permeates global value chains in important ways. It accounts for a good part of what consumers pay for in a product and determines which companies are successful in the marketplace. It also lies at the heart of the organization of global value chains: decisions on where to locate different production tasks and with whom to partner are closely tied to how companies manage their intangible capital.[1]

Titled ‘Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains’, the report looks at the role intangible capital, including IP, plays in the global value chain and market for each product.  For example, the report finds that the global increase in coffee consumption has contributed to the development of new technology and branding within the industry. This includes:

  • Technology associated with coffee farming and with turning coffee into a high-quality and appealing consumer product. Patent data suggest that the most innovative value chain stages are those closer to the consumer, including the processing of beans and especially the final distribution of coffee products. The latter stage includes the modern espresso machines and coffee capsules found in many homes and offices.
  • Brand reputation and image, which allow consumer product firms to differentiate their offering from those of their rivals. Branding plays an important role in all coffee market segments, including soluble and roasted coffee sold in grocery stores, espresso based coffee products and retail coffeehouses.[2]

It also provides insight into trends for patent and trade mark protection in the coffee industry.  For example, there has been an increase in coffee producing countries seeking geographical indications and trade marks as a means of deriving value from the product.  Similar data is provided for the photovoltaic and smartphone industries.  It also provides some insights more generally into the role of intangible assets in the global value chain.

A must read for those interested in the changing supply chain landscape.

The full World Intellectual Property Report is available here.


[1] Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains’, World Intellectual Property 2017, World Intellectual Property Organisation, page 5.

[2] Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains’, World Intellectual Property 2017, World Intellectual Property Organisation, page 12.


Anita is a member of our trade marks team and has more than 10 years’ experience in trade mark clearance work, prosecution, oppositions and enforcement, both locally and internationally. She has also been involved in proceedings before the Australian Trade Marks Office and the Federal Court of Australia.