What effect – if any – are you seeing the climate crisis have on the innovation landscape?
I have noticed a marked increase in the number of clients filing patent applications for innovations relating to cleantech, as well as an increased focus from investors and the government on innovators working in this area.
In particular, the recent COP26 conference in the United Kingdom resulted in a declaration from hundreds of governments, cities and businesses to work towards making all new vehicles zero emissions by 2040 at the latest. This technological shift is illustrated by the fact that global patent filings for electric vehicles are currently rising, while those for petrol and diesel vehicles are falling rapidly.
Similarly, recent initiatives such as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s e-waste reduction campaign and the European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan have highlighted increases in patenting activity in the areas of e-waste mining and recycling technology.
Which emerging technologies are currently having the biggest impact on your clients – and how is this shaping your practice?
The pace with which AI and machine-learning technologies continue to evolve and permeate all spheres of the economy, and the concomitant wave of patent filings in this area, means that we are continuing to probe the boundaries of what is and is not patentable in this dynamic field. There is also a lack of uniformity between the way in which the major patent offices assess AI and machine-learning inventions.
I therefore need to work very closely with my clients to ensure that we maximise the chances of securing the widest possible protection for their innovations in this area, while avoiding the pitfalls that have arisen due to the patent system being unable to keep up with this rapidly evolving field.
What has you has been your career highlight to date?
I have spent over two decades working with many different companies protecting hundreds of inventions, but the technologies that really stick with you over the long term are those that one comes across every day. One such invention that comes to mind is the work I did with the BBC in securing protection for its iPlayer TV on-demand app. At the time, back in 2005, I remember wondering whether the technology would ever catch on. Fast forward to 2022, I spend my morning commute on the train surrounded by people watching downloaded boxsets. It was a privilege to have been a part of the team that patented this technology, which has now become so pervasive.
How do you manage expectations and maintain close working relationships with clients when the stakes are so high?
The close working relationships I have with my clients are built on frequent, open and frank communication. My clients are always in the loop and have a clear understanding of the legal position and the opportunities, challenges and risks in any given situation. I do not find that there is any tension in maintaining a close working relationship while managing expectations.
Given the current global volatility, what steps can companies take to future-proof their IP strategies?
During times of volatility, it is more important than ever for companies to ensure that they have a robust IP strategy in place to minimise risks and to maximise opportunities that might arise. Companies might be at increased risk of common IP pitfalls, such as an unintended disclosure of an invention or an infringement of third-party intellectual property during volatile times. Equally, companies should maintain flexibility in their IP strategies so that they are in a position to take advantage of unexpected opportunities arising from the volatility, such as changes in their market competition, and to meet the changing needs of their business. Companies should also ensure that investment in IP rights is delivering value, and is prioritised appropriately, particularly if budgets are restricted.
Dani Kramer works in Mathys & Squire’s IT and engineering team, acting for large corporations, small and medium-sized entities and start-ups. His work includes drafting and prosecuting patent applications, advising on technology-based agreements and handling contentious infringement and validity matters. Mr Kramer’s practice focuses on the fields of internet, television, software, AI and machine learning, microprocessors, semiconductor devices, communication technologies, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, fuel cells and other environmental technologies cases.