IP in the Future


Muireann Bolger

IP in the Future

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The world has changed, and the IP sector needs to continue to evolve so it can respond effectively to the complex challenges that lie ahead. Muireann Bolger reports.

The pace of global, technological, economic, and social change is accelerating. This is testing the strength of the intellectual property (IP) system, the value of IP rights, and the ability of IP organizations and practitioners around the world to respond in a nimble and robust way.

To address these challenges, INTA initiated a large-scale project in early 2019 that included the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the Future Think Tank, the In-House Practice (IHP) of the Future Thank Tank, and the IP Law Firm (IPLF) of the Future Think Tank.

Each was tasked with the same objective: exploring the issues facing IP in the future. Each think tank undertook this forward-looking study from their specific lens—of IPOs, in-house practitioners, and law firms.

INTA today released the complete report “The Intellectual Property Office of the Future,” and executive summaries of the “In-House Practice of the Future Think Tank” report, and the “IP Law Firms of the Future Think Tank” report.

The findings are being discussed today, 9:30 am–11:00 am (EST), and Thursday, November 19, 9:30 am–11:00 am (GMT+8) during Town Hall: IP Practice of the Future—A View from Intellectual Property Offices, In-House, and Law Firm Leaders.

A Changing World

The IPO of the Future Think Tank’s report presents a holistic view of the present and future issues confronting IPOs worldwide—looking 10 to 20 years ahead—and explores how they can best respond and adapt.

Facilitated by INTA, the IPO of the Future Think Tank is an independent group of 14 current and former heads of IPOs from Australia, Canada, Chile, Europe, France, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, and the United States. The report reflects the collective input of these experts.

“With so much change occurring simultaneously, we must ensure that IPOs of the future are nimble and robust enough to absorb, manage, facilitate, and enable change,” the report said.

Among the changes impacting IPOs and IP stakeholders, the report cites, among other developments, the rising importance, volume, and complexity of IP rights; the emergence of new countries as IP powerhouses; the strengthening of global trade; the changing nature of work with disruptive technologies; and the increasing use of alternative means to resolve IP rights disputes. Subsequently, while IPOs are still performing traditional tasks, many are increasingly taking on additional ones—resulting in a diversity of roles among IPOs across the globe.

“While there is no one-size-fits-all approach that fits all jurisdictions, there is a commonality of key interests and vision for the future shared by many,” the report said.

The IPO of the Future Think Tank explored three key themes: the evolution of the IP system, future challenges and opportunities, and the key features that an IPO of the future should have.

“The shift from tangible to intangible value, in which innovation plays a central role, and from traditional industries to the knowledge-based economy, along with the strengthening of global trade and markets, has had a direct impact on the evolution of the IP system and the role of IPOs,” said the report.

It further noted that globally, intangible assets now represent 85 percent of corporate value and surpasses US $50 trillion.

Meanwhile, IP applications continue to increase. According to the report, in 2018, applications totaled 3.3 million for patents, 2.1 million for utility models, 14.3 million for trademarks, and 1.3 million for industrial designs worldwide.

Consequently, a successful adaptation of the IP system demands agility, efficiency, effectiveness, diversification, inclusiveness, and dependence on data, according to the report.

“It relies on the integration of new tools, and changing practices and procedures, including adapting existing IP rights, or creating new ones,” it said.

“From a technology perspective, teams will be expected to use automation and data analytics tools to improve processes and efficiencies.” - Dramatic Changes

There are new challenges related to IP legislation, office practices, and policy environments, as new business models and technologies advance faster than the pace of legislative change.

The report said: “As machines become more sophisticated and move to more predictive analysis, they will be able to implement simple decision points previously made by humans.”

This development in artificial intelligence (AI), according to the report, will be a game-changer for IPOs and rights owners in the future.

But there are also challenges in the IP sphere relating to human contributions affecting inventorship, ownership, and patentability.

“A fundamental concept of the IP system is to grant IP rights to protect concretion of ideas. This poses many questions relating to whether the current IP framework should be amended to incorporate these AI-based thinking machines and their inventions to be eligible for IP rights,” noted the report.

IPOs will also need to look closely at the next generation of IP owners. It pointed out that while the current IPO user base is predominantly from Generations X and Y (aka the millennials), the future consumer base will be largely populated by Generation Z (defined as those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s).

“Keeping up with new consumers’ behaviors will drive IP rights owners’ decisions, and the IPO of the Future needs to be ready,” said the report.

Becoming the IPO of the Future

What are the key features a modern IPO requires to address these momentous changes?

“Over the next 10 to 20 years, IPOs must be prepared to adapt in order to address challenges and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves,” said the report.

These challenges will require the IPO of the Future to:

  • Evaluate how best to integrate new tools, increase inclusiveness, and recruit a new generation of employees with a diverse skillset
  • Work with other IPOs to develop solutions and tools that can be shared, to further harmonize processes, practices, standards, and tools across regions in an inclusive way
  • Work with domestic and foreign stakeholders from the public and private sectors to offer tailored products and quality, relevant services
  • Support research and innovation ecosystems, by helping public and private stakeholders to navigate such ecosystems and to develop a better understanding of IP trends, issues, and benefits

“There are also challenges in the IP sphere relating to human contributions affecting inventorship, ownership, and patentability.”A Framework for the Future

To achieve the above aims, the IPO of the Future Think Tank has included in its report a case study analysis highlighting the experiences of IPOs in the wake of COVID-19—indicating how IPOs “must adapt in order to survive, and in some cases thrive, through economic and societal disruptions.”

Some of the key issues the case study identified in response to COVID-19 are highlighted below.


IPOs introduced short-term blanket extensions of filing and renewal timelines, leading to a complicated international regulatory patchwork. This demonstrates the need for increased collaboration and transparency.

Finances Resources and Stewardship

Financial planning and forecasting became even more important in understanding how market trends, expected applications, and internal production could maintain revenue sources through the pandemic.

Data-Driven Solutions

IPOs with the capacity for economic analysis and modelling were able to anticipate IP application trends, ultimately informing decisions and allowing these IPOs to remain financially robust.

Supporting Innovation

IPOs needed to understand how their IP data could be used and shared with researchers to develop, deploy, license, or commercialize inventions that could respond to COVID-19. Some IPOs introduced compulsory license provisions for COVID-19-related technologies, while a few provided accelerated examination for similar technologies.

Increasing Market Efficiency

IPOs found ways to increase understanding and improve the sharing of information in the marketplace, assisting companies wishing to retool or pivot production lines to produce medical devices.

Informing Policy Development

Some IPOs were able to gather intelligence and leverage their IP expertise to inform government emergency response policies, ensuring an alignment with government priorities.

“The legal scope [of in-house practitioners] will expand to include other areas of IP and adjacent legal areas such as marketing and advertising law, digital issues including e-commerce, social media, privacy, and data protection.” The In-House Practice of the Future

INTA’s “In-House Practice of the Future Think Tank” report examined the roles and responsibilities of in-house IP attorneys, the impact of technology on the practice, and core competencies for, and obstacles to, creating the brand legal team of the future—10 years from today.

According to the report’s executive summary: “In the future state, trademarks will continue to be the key area of responsibility; however, the roles will evolve, as the nature of the work continues to change, and in-house teams take on additional responsibilities. Because of this we will refer to in-house practitioners of the future as brand counsel or brand legal teams.”

The legal scope will expand to include other areas of IP and adjacent legal areas such as marketing and advertising law, digital issues including e-commerce, social media, privacy, and data protection, as well as regulatory issues, it said.

From a technology perspective, teams will be expected to use automation and data analytics tools to improve processes and efficiencies.

Looking at the current environment, the report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic aside, companies’ legal resources and budgets are tighter than ever, and in-house teams “are being asked to do more with less.”

“We anticipate that this trend will continue,” the summary said, “and that the members of the brand legal team will continue to morph into true business advisors who are tasked with managing risk on an agile basis.”

“Successful law firms of the future will have to distinguish themselves in new ways, such as on price, service models, and speed; the use of technology and communications; innovation; and add-on services.”







IP Law Firms of the Future

INTA charged the IPLF Think Tank with broadly examining “rapidly shifting and changing markets” to provide guidance for member firms in preparing action plans for the future.

“Recent worldwide events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have served to further accelerate the need for change through preparation and adaptation,” said the executive summary of INTA’s “IP Law Firms of the Future Think Tank Report.”

IP law firms are increasingly involved in matters beyond traditional trademark protection and enforcement issues, the summary revealed. As in-house teams look for strategic partners for myriad issues alongside traditional IP needs, law firms must be prepared with the knowledge and flexibility to support clients across wide-ranging industries and issues.

“They are also faced with new challenges and opportunities, including new technologies that impact the way firms operate and how society behaves and communicates; changes to their clients’ needs and expectations; the changing landscape for IP; and increasing competition,” said the executive summary.

In addition, it said: “The IP law firm of the future must continue to evolve globally, while remaining vigilant that individual regions will likely see different types of firms develop in different ways for cultural, regulatory, or economic reasons.”

Increasingly, clients have come to control key decisions influencing legal hiring, including staffing and scheduling decisions, outsourcing requirements, project management, and pricing structures.

The Think Tank noted trends that are impacting law firms, including the move toward a business partner relationship, new technologies, and operational changes such as the blurring of separation between IP professionals and service providers.

This means that law firms should “remain flexible and ready to diversify their services, exploring specific client business needs,” the summary said.

“Successful law firms of the future will have to distinguish themselves in new ways, such as on price, service models, and speed; the use of technology and communications; innovation; and add-on services.”

Change is the Constant

As these reports show, change now seems to be the leading constant in the IP landscape.

Ultimately, as opportunities emerge alongside challenges, IP organizations and practitioners of the future will have to distinguish themselves in new and dynamic ways, which will demand foresight, planning, and innovation.

By pioneering new technologies, enabling AI, and embracing new ways of thinking, IPOs and IP practitioners will be in the vanguard of the agile organizations and workforce demanded in the future.

INTA 2020, technology, IP rights, IPO, think tank, stakeholders, intangible assets, data, report, legislation, AI, COVID-19, economic analysis, patent