The IP Practice of the Future


Muireann Bolger

The IP Practice of the Future


An ambitious INTA project that looked at how IP may change in the future offered lessons across the profession, Muireann Bolger finds.

In 2019, INTA began a Think Tank initiative based upon the simple question: “What might the intellectual property (IP) practice of the future look like?” It formed three think tanks focusing on intellectual property offices (IPOs), in-house practice, and IP law firms, respectively, and asked each group to look at current practice and predict the future.

The groups prepared independent, proactive, and thought-provoking reports, which were explored in depth by the think tank leaders during yesterday’s session, Town Hall—IP Practice of the Future: A View from Intellectual Property Offices, In-House, and Law Firm Leaders.

The panel shared their findings—including what surprised them and what IP practitioners need to do to prepare for the future, and common trends across all three segments, and highlighted divergent views based on technology adoption, resource management, and prioritization.

“We’ve done a lot of thinking about the substance of IP law, but this is really about the practice,” said session moderator INTA President Ayala Deutsch, Executive Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, NBA Properties, Inc. (US).

“The goal in putting together the think tanks was to provide some thought and analysis on what we think will happen in IP in 5, 10, and 15 years from now,” she explained. “The work that each of these think tanks has generated provides good, thought-provoking discussion for all of us who work in IP about how we can be proactive and get ahead of the curve.”

“The trademark role is continually evolving.” Jayne McClelland, Syngenta Crop Protection AG






In-House Practice: Embrace Change

The In-House Practice of the Future Think Tank conducted interviews with trademark teams in 27 organizations to explore current and future ways of working.

According to Ronald van Tuijl, Intellectual Property Trade Marks Director, JT International SA (Switzerland), one key trend emerged from the research: many trademark attorneys are finding that their role is evolving from that of a trademark specialist to that of a general counsel to brands, which demands agile thinking, proactive and reactive approaches, and greater knowledge of marketing law.

Added Jayne McClelland, Trademark Attorney at Syngenta Crop Protection AG (Switzerland), “The trademark role is continually evolving.”

She revealed that 53 percent of respondents said that they were now required to have project management skills, and 50 percent said that identifying how technologies could change the way they work had become a core element of their roles.

This sea change, Mr. van Tuijl said, should be embraced, not feared.

“People should take the ability to adapt as a strength. People feel a bit fatalistic about the future, about the fast changes to the profession,” he said. “The reality is that we have changed and that is a great strength; we need to design our future to remain relevant and ensure our jobs remain just as interesting.”

“You need to provide a solution for clients who want a certain mark, and not simply tell them they can’t use that mark.” Maximilian Kinkeldey, Grünecker






Law Firms: Provide A Solution

Law firms face huge challenges as the relationship between clients and external law firms has dramatically shifted over the past decade, noted Peter Sloane, Partner at Leason Ellis LLP (US), who discussed the research carried out by the IP Law Firms of the Future Think Tank.

“The 2009 recession turned things upside down. Clients have built up in-house capability, and technology has leveled the playing field. Clients are now in the driving seat,” he said.

Law firms need to act differently and provide a different kind of service if they want to remain relevant, urged Maximilian Kinkeldey, Partner at Grünecker (Germany). He pointed out that outside counsel can often be seen as a roadblock to successful product launch.

“That doesn’t work any longer. You need to provide a solution for clients who want a certain mark, and not simply tell them they can’t use that mark. If we can’t provide that type of service, we will become irrelevant,” he suggested.

He added that the law firms of the future must offer speed, efficiency, and value for money. “Whoever can’t provide these services will not survive,” he warned.

“IPOs, to their great credit, have quickly pivoted and adapted; they have found a way to remain relevant and acceptable.” David Kappos, Cravath, Swaine & Moore (US)






IP Offices: Pandemic-Exposed Resilience

In sharing findings of the Intellectual Property Office of the Future Think Tank, David Kappos, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore (US), and José Luis Londoño, INTA’s Chief Representative Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean, noted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, increased digitization, a greater focus on data, and a surge in demand for IP rights are key game-changers.

Mr. Kappos noted that IPOs worldwide have learned a great deal about the resilience of their functions during the pandemic.

“IPOs, to their great credit, have quickly pivoted and adapted; they have found a way to remain relevant and acceptable,” he said. “The office of the future is going to need to do this. IPOs should assume there will be another pandemic and deal with weaknesses that have been exposed by the current crisis.”

Mr. Londoño explained that the pandemic had taught IPOs “to eliminate excessive formalities.” However, questions remain around how IPOs will use, and be influenced by, technology. “It will be challenging; traditional roles will change,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot of thinking about the substance of IP law, but this is really about the practice.” Ayala Deutsch, NBA Properties, Inc.

He added that while the report had concluded that IPOs of the future should not be part of the enforcement system, they would have a role in supporting enforcement, as well as developing IP policy with governments, providing education on IP rights, and assisting in IP valuation.

In conjunction with the Town Hall, INTA yesterday 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.”

INTA 2020, think tank, IPOs, trademarks, IP law firms, pandemic, technology, outside counsel