Evolution of IT in intellectual property: an overview

The resources required to manage patents and IP assets are becoming more crucial over time. However, the rapid growth in data digitisation and the infrastructure which supports it pose substantial challenges.

Many forms of IT are available for developing and supporting different types of intellectual property (eg, patents and trademarks). Previously, patent offices maintained physical records of their patent documents. Therefore, for examiners, patent searches were an entirely manual process. Further, third-party access to records was based on request. However, modern technologies have improved information access for everyone, regardless of jurisdiction.

Patent offices can now provide digital versions of patent documents. Physical records are being digitised for ease of access and to make searches more effective. Digitisation has revolutionised patent records, as examiners can easily search and mine patents as necessary. Further, patent attorneys and applicants can access the same information and review their inventions accordingly. As all patent data is digitised, it is possible to collate data on a global level and generate more comprehensive information for inter partes review proceedings. For example, Lexis Nexis, IFI CLAIMS and Thomson Innovation are the central repositories providing data on patents in over 100 jurisdictions. The need to access these global databases has led to the development of various patent-searching platforms, including Thomson Innovation, Questel Orbit, Total Patents and Patsnap. These databases are providing new opportunities for finding prior art for particular patents.

While IT has played a key role in escalating the provision of patent data and IP intelligence systems, many associated challenges remain. Some of the crucial areas in need of clarification are discussed below.

IP portfolio management
Managing patent portfolios on behalf of patent offices and businesses has been challenging due to increased levels of data. Further, new rules and regulations require new system policies, which can cause compatibility issues. Innovative IP management tools such as Anaqua, IPfolio and G2 crowd have designed various ways to manage IP assets. Although these tools have built-in functions that can track patent prosecution details (eg, fee payment status), they struggle to integrate multiple jurisdiction rules and regulatory changes. Further, with no global policy enforcement entity, these tools face additional challenges enforcing policy for specific countries.

Patent database
As the data must be updated from multiple sources and with the number of patents increasing daily, the task of keeping the global databases up to date has become increasingly challenging and raised additional questions regarding data authenticity, data sanitisation and format specificity. The language of patent documents and trademarks also presents challenges, as maintaining and accessing multiple languages might not be practical for end users. Therefore, the responsibility lies with database providers to provide translated (ie, English language) documentation in order to support comprehensive searches and access.

IP search tools
There are many free as well as purchasable IP search tools available that provide comprehensive access to patent records worldwide. Some search tools, such as Orbit Intelligence, are connected to database providers, while others, such as TotalPatent and Thomson Innovation, retain their own back-end repositories. The most prominent feature of these tools is that they provide comprehensive patent searching in any language. Considering the speed of existing technologies, these tools must be calibrated to process user requests immediately. Further, these tools should customisable as per the requirement of the user. Patent searching tools such as Questel and Thomson Innovation have also started providing trademark data. Although some tools such as AxxonAI, Innography and Google’s prior art finder have attempted to automate the patent-searching option, these tools have not been able to work efficiently.

IP analytics
IP search tools such as PatSnap, Orbit Intelligence, Thomson Innovation, Relecura and Gridlogics  are using analytics to identify trends in patents and trademarks according to such criteria as technology segmentation and assignees. However, these tools face major challenges with regard to data sanitisation: for example, if the data for applicant or attorney names is not sanitised, it can result in misleading data interpretations. Such hindrances can shorten the lifespan of these tools.

In addition to the abovementioned areas, certain other areas require strong back-end IT support to efficiently carry out their daily processes (eg, patent docketing).

There is now greater scope for developing IT infrastructure in IP matters at a level where most things can be done automatically. Further, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems such as natural language processing to enhance IP asset management and increase work efficiency through automation. When AI is effectively combined with human intervention, a new IP era will begin.

To solve the emerging problems generated by information technology, IP policies should embody a more coherent and equitable set of principles and practices.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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