IP, ethics, and tech: hard times ahead


John Collins

IP, ethics, and tech: hard times ahead

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In a deluge of intangible assets, how do we know that our patent is novel? John Collins of Innovation Foundry and Digital Catapault explores a growing problem.

Ubiquitous IP is fast becoming a problem. A new patent application is made every 10 seconds—more than 3.4 million in 2020. A new trademark registered every 2 seconds—more than 16 million in 2020. And there are more than 6 million active patents at any one time.

The vast majority of these come from China, USA, Japan, Korea and Germany. There were even 22,000 (cultivated) plant varieties registered in 2020.

It has now become possible to entirely independently and with no knowledge whatsoever that IP exists around what an inventor believes is novel, to submit a patent that infringes upon another simply because the ‘other’ patent has been maintained but not been exploited to any great extent and appears invisible in freedom to operate (FTO) and prior art searches.

Patent infringement, freedom to operate, novel, prior art, patent search