Four predictions on how AI will reshape the IP landscape

IAM’s Strategy 300 Global Leaders share their insights on what the future holds and what companies should do to stay ahead

This month, IAM will be publishing its inaugural IAM Strategy 300 Global Leaders guide, in which experts from the worlds of private practice, consulting and other service providers reflect on their professional journeys to date, and offer insights and guidance into career development, practice management and patent industry trends. 

Among the various topics covered, we asked our strategic elite for their take on AI and how it might transform the patent ecosystem – from automated prosecution to Big Data-led strategy. Here is what they had to say.

How AI could lead to better quality patents

Essenese Obhan, managing partner at Obhan and Associates, is optimistic about AI and its longer-term effect on patent quality. “I see AI making a positive impact on the administrative and procedural functions in the patent ecosystem,” he enthuses. “I think that in the near future AI tools will also help clients to make strategic decisions on the likely outcome of a litigation or dispute. They are also likely to play a huge role in patent quality, especially in terms of patent drafting and prosecution.”

No easy answers in a complex system

In order to predict how AI will affect patent systems it is crucial to be precise. “It is first important to avoid generalising AI as one thing,” insists independent consultant Richard Buttrick. “AI is already affecting the innovation of technology, but will have a much wider impact, including on IP services. There have already been structural changes in providing IP services driven by the economy of scale and disruptive business models, and the addition of AI-based IP services to the mix will add new layers of opportunity and complexity; will you have your patent drafted by an AI system or a human patent attorney, or will it be a bit of both? These new challenges will shape tomorrow’s leaders.”

AI and quantum computing – a powerful pair

Justin Hill, a partner at Dentons, is already working on projects to explore the possibilities of enhancing IP intelligence, situational awareness and risk management. “I fully expect future software to be capable of analysing and reporting on the strengths and weaknesses of patent assets, portfolios and the peer group business as a whole with far more detail and insight than is possible today,” he predicts. “I am perhaps most fascinated by the impact that AI and its more impressive sibling, quantum computing, will have on innovation strategies in general. These technologies will underpin new heights of machine innovation not possible in the previous era of human innovation. This fact alone means that AI outputs are bound fundamentally to drive future productivity and competition at business, national and regional levels. Access to data and the security of data will increase in strategic importance, with new data licensing models and new data sharing standards. Data exclusivity or exclusive insights derived from data, as well as the tools for achieving this exclusive knowledge, will have an increased strategic value, as Big Data and cloud platforms have had recently. I anticipate that a balance will be struck in IP law that affords protection for innovative tools and processes without necessarily allowing monopolies in the output or products of AI itself.”

Keep your eye on the tech issues of today

While many are – understandably - preoccupied with how AI will change existing structures, this must not distract us from issues that are already here. “Quantum computing and deep-learning AI have had a lot of focus – science fiction becoming science reality will always capture the public imagination,” Calum Smyth, a partner at Wiggin LLP, observes. “Although applications are not yet widespread, these innovations raise interesting questions in areas such as copyright, trade secrets and patent law – for example, should AI be recognised as a patent inventor? However, today’s digital world is generating more immediate problems, including in relation to the use of technology and data. The surge of data-led propositions is disrupting every industry. Data sets have grown and become well structured, and sophisticated information can be extracted using algorithms and machine learning, shifting business models and blurring industries. Engineering companies find themselves providing energy services, while electronics manufacturers are providing healthcare. Different resources provided by different companies are carefully woven together to create software platforms that offer multiple services. In a legal context making this work is an IP problem. Are the data sets trade secrets? Who owns what technology and how is it used and licensed? Advising on both commercial and contentious aspects of such an arrangement requires a high level of sophistication. IP lawyers need to understand the technology so they can translate their clients’ issues into rights and obligations.”

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