5 ways Intellectual Property is evolving

  • 26 April 2017

The 2017 Intellectual Property (IP) Roadmap is ICC’s essential IP reference tool, providing an authoritative overview of the most pressing issues currently facing policymakers and businesses that seek to innovate in a constantly changing world.

Freshly updated and launched in London on the eve of World IP Day, here are five key takeaways from the report:

1. Innovation is a global game

New information and communication technologies have made business more global than ever, with even small- and medium-sized companies operating and trading on an international scale. This means that innovation today is increasingly collaborative and goes beyond borders.

“Nowadays, IP is more likely to be created collectively by a team of different actors, each with specific expertise, often in different countries, rather than by a single organization,” the IP Roadmap points out.

This creates formidable challenges for managing IP assets and enforcing IP rights in multiple jurisdictions with varying approaches to IP rights. Initiatives to address these challenges include international efforts to harmonise standards and procedures, cooperation between IP offices, as well as through cooperation between different stakeholders in both the private and public sectors. The Roadmap also notes an increasing trend for countries to establish specialised jurisdictions to resolve IP disputes.

The world of research and innovation is becoming multipolar, with research and development efforts that increasingly include actors in emerging economies. Three Asian countries now rank among the top five patent-filing countries, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation: Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.

2. New technologies are transforming IP management and enforcement

Cutting-edge companies are racing to out-innovate each other in a series of high-profile sectors such as artificial intelligence. But innovation is also guided by the increased need for interoperability inherent in communication technologies and platforms, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine to machine (M2M) communication and the industrial Internet. This means that patents in the context of standards continues to be a hot issue.

Let’s not forget that intelligent machines and devices such as robots and satellites can themselves produce information that results in IP assets. This raises questions of creation, invention and ownership.

The ease with which information can be distributed has opened up opportunities for global cooperation yet also makes it much harder to control the distribution of IP assets. 3D printing has the potential to replicate consumer goods based on IP-protected knowledge and designs, while technologies like blockchain are being explored to authenticate and communicate information concerning digitally distributed IP.

3. IP is a public issue

If IP is often about protecting private creations, it nevertheless has implications for society that are increasingly debated in the public sphere. 2016 saw both the development of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the signing of the Paris Agreement, the latter aimed at combatting climate change. Innovation and collaboration will play an important role in helping achieve these goals, and IP will be a key factor in enabling this.

ICC’s IP Roadmap notes that there is an urgent need to communicate on IP issues with the general public so that political objections to IP initiatives are not based on a lack of understanding. For instance, strong IP protections are often seen as stifling information whereas they actually enhance transparency and the dissemination of knowledge, as for instance, inventors are less likely to share their inventions without the assurance of a patent.

4. Company data and trade secrets are more valuable than ever

Information and knowledge are often the most valuable assets of a company.

Trade secrets and confidential business information are of growing importance, especially in light of the globalisation of trade and interconnected supply chains. The Roadmap reports on recent legislative initiatives to address the challenges of protecting confidential business information in the digital world.

In increasingly data-driven economies, questions concerning rights over data, as well as responsibilities in areas such as data privacy, arise. Managing data becomes more complex as data collection becomes ubiquitous through the Internet of Everything (IoT), Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and the Industrial Internet, and as data regulation becomes more prevalent.

Databases are constantly monetised and traded though formal database protection does not exist in many jurisdictions.

5. Intellectual property is a valuable asset in itself

While IP has long been used by businesses to increase their competitiveness in commercialising goods and services, there is growing recognition that IP is a valuable asset in itself that can bring in revenues, improve balance sheets, increase stock value, or be used as collateral. The market for trading in IP is growing and becoming ever more inventive.

The valuation of IP has therefore become even more relevant but, despite an increase in the number of valuation techniques, the development of international standardised techniques remains a challenge since the value of IP depends on the context.

The 2017 edition of the ICC Intellectual Property Roadmap reflects all these and more changes in a substantially updated overview of key intellectual property policy issues. Sections on valuation and monetisation of IP assets, patents and standards, designs, trademark restrictions on packaging, domain names, plant varieties, information products, sustainable development, climate change, innovation and competition, as well as the chapter on developments having an impact on IP, have been largely rewritten, while important new information has been added to other sections.