Immaterialgüter- und Wettbewerbsrecht

Promoting Innovations of SMEs through a Second-Tier Protection System in South Asian Economies - Exploring a Model for Sri Lanka

Intellectual property rights in particular, patents aim to provide incentives for innovation. Despite the presence of intellectual property law and rights, the absence of incentives is considered as one of the reasons for suboptimal growth rate in technological development and innovation in South Asian economics. It is pointed out that there are insufficient level of incentives for minor and incremental innovations which are predominantly produced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Last Update: 01.09.12

Furthermore, innovation in this region tends to be based on improvements or derived from traditional knowledge, and often sub-patentable. Such innovations are vulnerable to unfair copying and misappropriation. In the absence of protection, incentives for investments for SMEs may dissipate.

This research project investigates whether a utility model (UM) system) or a petty patent system offers a solution to the gap without introducing undue costs. A UM system offers a cheaper, simpler and a shorter protection regime and is characterized by less stringent requirements for protection. Based on the legislative examples of other jurisdictions, this paper examines whether Sri Lanka, in particular, may be able to benefit from the introduction of UM system.

Research Statement

The second decade of the twenty first century is witnessing the rise of global innovation competition, highlighting the importance of knowledge. In a knowledge-based economy, intellectual property (IP) is considered as a tool for technological and economic development. The protection of IP is one of the building blocks of national innovation policies. However, harnessing innovation to generate wealth is a huge challenge. This task is particularly daunting for the developing economies in South Asian region where innovation tends to be based on improvements and derived from traditional knowledge, which may fail to receive conventional protection such as patent protection.

It is possible to argue that there are incentive and protection gaps for these types of innovations. The recent scholarship in the area has suggested that, in the absence of other appropriate protection systems, the protection gap may fail to incentivise local innovators. While no protection may mean more access in developed countries, but no protection may also lead to dissipation of marketable value in innovation. As a corollary, this may reduce the incentives for investment for local innovation in improvement, in contrast to foreign ownership of major patentable inventions.

A specifically designed protection regime such as UM or Petty Patent System may be explored as one possible solution to this conundrum. Utility models provide a patent-like protection for minor and incremental innovations against unfair copying and imitation. This research project argues that when properly tailored to local innovative landscape, addressing potential abuse, a UM regime may provide an efficient and locally accessible incentive mechanism for incremental innovations, in the developing economies such as in Sri Lanka.


Doctoral Student

Nishantha Sampath Punchi Hewage


Dr. Nari Lee

Doctoral Supervisor

Prof. Dr. Josef Drexl

Main Areas of Research

Die Fragmentierung des Internationalen Immaterialgüterrechts