In many countries, including some of the world’s most important emerging economies, it takes so long to obtain a patent that the intellectual property rights approach irrelevance in many industries, says a new report by George Mason University’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property. Patent pendency—the length of time a patent application is left pending while under review—is one of the biggest challenges facing the global patent system, according to the study. Lengthy pendency is an issue for both the high tech and life sciences industries. In Thailand, for example, it now takes 16 years on average to get a pharmaceutical patent granted. “Thailand regularly issues patents with mere months or weeks of life left before expiration,” the report says. But the study also found that some countries are strengthening their commitments to patent processing. South Korea now has the world’s shortest average pendency period for all patent applications at 2.8 years. China is next at 2.9 years, followed by the U.S. at 3.5 years, Australia at 3.6 years, and Egypt at 3.8 years.