IT in intellectual property: boon or bane?

Intellectual property remains enigmatic and a source of controversy due to several problems that remain unresolved. The extent of protection and enforcement of IP rights varies widely around the world. As societies advance, new discoveries and inventions emerge which expand the list of things that fall under the scope of intellectual property.

Rapid technological changes during the past three decades have led to the development of ‘intellectual capitalism’, in which human minds have become a source of capital and enterprise. Despite the present climate of technological revolution, the return on intellectual capital is unmeasurable by available standards. Information and knowledge through technology is the foundation on which modern business models are built.

Traditional versus modern approach
Society is in the midst of a knowledge-based revolution through technology. Consider the days when all IP activities were paper based and manually performed,  when every IP office retained physical records and provided paper-based certificates. However, out of necessity the industry soon transitioned from manual entries to the digitisation of the entire patent database through the Internet. Digital documents are now available for all intellectual property and records can be easily accessed from anywhere in the world.

With increasing IP filing rates, the process of managing, searching and optimally using intellectual property has become a major problem area for IP offices and applicants. These challenges in the IP ecosystem have led to the automation of various IP-related processes, including asset creation, management (eg, portfolio management) valuation, ranking and docketing.

Existing IT infrastructure aims to make information available at the click of a button, reducing the burden of manual analysis. While automation is greatly improving existing IP industry processes, it also has its limitations.

IT infrastructure: pros and cons
The table below outlines the pros and cons of existing IP advancements in terms of IT infrastructure.



Rather than hiring experts to perform manual analyses in IP-related processes (eg, docketing and portfolio ranking and management), existing IT advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing are providing cheaper, faster and more convenient methods for evaluating and managing intellectual property.

The advancements in existing platforms helps to provide cutting-edge solutions for IP valuations. Assignees are able to discover potential licensing leads at the click of a button. 

Automated searches also reduce manual analysis and help examiners and inventors to search relevant prior art for particular patents.

As every IP task is focused on automating and reducing the human-centred approach so that experts can spend their time strategising, it will be important to validate the automation process. Existing AI-enabled searching platforms are unable to meet expectations. As a result, manual efforts are required to search for prior art, hence this level of automation being unacceptable in the market.

Regarding patent portfolio management and docketing services, complete automation is unachievable due to different laws in different jurisdictions. These services would need to be updated constantly due to regulatory changes in each jurisdiction.

Similarly, regarding patent valuation, it would be impossible to automate all of the required factors. While patent valuation can be estimated by using market financial data, determining manual parameters such as actual infringing products may not be possible.

A blend of modern (ie, automated) and traditional (ie, manual) approaches is required to ascertain the best way forward. Importantly, as the industry evolves, it must be supported. Therefore, IT infrastructure must also evolve.

While patent documents can now be accessed worldwide through the Internet, further advancements are required, such as automatic searching and IP valuation. Automating the gamut of IP processes would definitely help, and many companies have tried to implement automatic prior art searching tools, landscape tools and IP infringement analysis tools. However, these approaches are not entirely trustworthy due to validity and accuracy issues.

Therefore, an approach that balances machine and human input is required in which some parts of the process are automated while others are performed by humans. This will avoid unnecessary manual processes and save time. While the primary purpose of automation is to reduce the time required for IP-related processes, the most important considerations for intellectual property are accuracy and validity ‒ patent decisions are based on factual and manual analyses. Therefore, despite the potential for greater efficiency, the accuracy of automated systems will need to be raised to a more acceptable level. Businesses should be made aware of the potential benefits of incorporating such a model into their existing workcycles.

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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