Big Promises, Big Data


Big Promises, Big Data

Using machine learning to analyze big data will ultimately transform the world around us, and it’s already having an impact on intellectual property professionals, as Sarah Morgan reports.

Big data and artificial intelligence technologies are here to stay, and law firms need to understand this, according to panelists who spoke yesterday at CM21 The Big Promise of Big Data: Perspectives on Possibilities and Risks, Today and Tomorrow. 

So-called “big data” has been around since the 1950s, but it’s only really in the last decade that we’ve obtained cloud computing capabilities that are able to process this data, said Thomas Messerer, Junior Partner at Moeller IP Advisors (Argentina). 

 “[The quantity of data in the world] is doubling every two years. It’s a rate that’s not changing any time soon,” he added. “But data is not worth anything if you’re unable to process it in the right way.”

For companies that make good use of data, it can provide insights into business operations, facilitate better reporting and decision making, and provide an edge over the competition, Mr. Messerer noted. 

Ricardo Fisher, Trademark Practice Leader at Arent Fox LLP (USA), offered this advice: “If this means that some areas of law are going to become more automated and reliant on technology, that’s fine. You don’t have to fear that, but be strategic, [and think] ‘where is my future value-added practice?’” 

Big Opportunities

One company that has embraced big data wholeheartedly is Inc. (USA). 

In the trademark enforcement space, Michael Kelly, Senior Corporate Counsel at, predicted data technology will develop further to facilitate a more sophisticated analysis to aid in the fight against counterfeiting.  

Mr. Kelly explained that Amazon uses machine learning and other data processing tools to address the issue on the platform—with automated processes scanning 6 million images per hour. In 2018, using this technology, Amazon was able to remove 3 billion abusive listings before any customers even saw them. 

“Without [these] tools, we have no way of operating at this scale,” Mr. Kelly said. 

But tools alone are not enough—and machine learning technology still requires human intervention to function effectively. In fact, too much reliance on machine learning can lead to problems, even with the best intentions, he added. 

For example, Amazon ran into a problem as it was tweaking its algorithms in an effort to uncover the sale of counterfeit products by monitoring customer reviews for suspicious language. As an unintended consequence, the automated system removed legitimate listings for artificial Christmas trees for sale on a merchant’s website. 

“People were writing in reviews [for the product] that this was a ‘great fake Christmas tree,’ and that was triggering our algorithm to remove those listings,” he added. 

Ultimately, trademark professionals should not view new technology as their replacement.

“It just becomes a tool in your toolbox, and changes the nature of the work rather than eliminating it,” Mr. Kelly said. “You can’t uninvent technology. You need to be open-minded and see how this can help you.” 

Applications for Law Firms

Big data and artificial intelligence have implications for the legal profession too, not just in how the technology can improve lawyers’ ability to serve clients, but also in the way the profession itself operates. 

Moderator Jayne Durden, Senior Vice President, Strategy - Law Firms at CPA Global (USA), said that the “proliferation of providers and the tools available out there” to help lawyers across the trademark spectrum actually demonstrates that the legal profession has a significant level of interest in new technologies. 

Benoit Fallenius, Founder and CEO at Markify (Finland), suggested that law firms themselves will ultimately have to change in order to accommodate new technologies. 

“The legal profession will always be there, but the businesses running them will be completely different and technology will be at the heart of it.”

He added: “If you have a culture of change and embrace new technology, you will be in the driver’s seat.” 

INTA 2019, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Amazon, trademark search, trademark clearance, counterfeits, anti-counterfeiting, Markify