March 16, 2020
We asked experts in our partner network from different countries how the IP industry is evolving and what innovations make 2020 special. AI affects everything, including the IP industry. Health should not be ignored either.
Due to the development of the Chinese economy, there is a huge IP market in China. The government is trying to make China an innovative country where attention is paid to IP protection. The IP environment is becoming better and better with patent and trademark applicants encouraged to file only high-quality applications. China’s Ministry of Education is encouraging universities, among others, to apply for IP protection in foreign countries as well.
New innovations are appearing especially in the fields of blockchains, big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Blockchain technology combined with financial systems will offer great opportunities for innovation and investment in the future. The Chinese central government is also encouraging companies in these areas. Another trend relates to the development of mobile payment. Mobile payment is well-developed in China, and there is still a huge market for related innovations due to the country’s large population.
Climate change and artificial intelligence affect many industries and, through them, also have an impact in the IP industry. There are industries that are now particularly encouraged in China, such as the production of electric cars. Correspondingly, many traditional industries, such as metallurgy, have lost their strong position due to climate change. In the future, artificial intelligence solutions, in turn, can be used to predict customer needs and requirements and to create IP strategies. IP services will become more efficient and accurate.
The coronavirus originated in China’s Hubei province, which may have a negative impact on many people’s views about Chinese people. The virus reminds us that health is the most important thing for a person. Consequently, there should be more investment in health care, pharmaceutical and medical instruments.
I follow the research of research institutes and universities for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease with interest. New therapies and forms of treatment are created as a result of this work, and people’s wellbeing is improved in small steps. The development is slow, but continuous.
Research institutes and start-ups should be given even more support, as innovation in the field of medicine and life sciences is slow and long-term work that requires a lot of money. There are no definite results, but if a breakthrough occurs, it can do a tremendous amount of good. Even though innovations in medicine and life sciences often seem to be just small changes or improvements to the old, they can, if realised, affect public health worldwide.
Climate change has brought about changes in this industry, too, such as the aim to go paperless as much as possible. This is a major change from the old approach, as before all documents were printed up to several times for storage and also as a personal work copy. Where possible, attempts will be made to increase the number of remote meetings and reduce air travel.
With increased awareness of the energy conversion and importance of wind, solar and thermal energy, renewable fuels are gaining a new and more secure foothold in US legislation as well. Even though the reduced price of oil has made investment in renewable energy sources less attractive, as technology advances, renewable energy sources will become more profitable and viable options than oil. The wind is turning towards ecological innovations, such as renewable fuels, battery technology and environmentally friendly energy storage.
Heightened innovation can also be seen in the area of cyber security protection innovations, such as blockchains. Data management is also being developed via artificial intelligence, for example, when developing new uses for existing drugs.
AI solutions are affecting every industry sector. Significant amounts of money are being spent on the development of artificial intelligence technologies, and many players are competing to become a leader in AI technology development. Leadership is sought, for example, through proprietary rights and patents for industry-specific innovations and their applications.
This year will also be interesting because IP rights are acting more and more as a driver for and a major factor in all business activities, such as mergers, acquisitions, joint venture and new franchise opportunities. Successful business partnerships are ones that analyse the impact of IP rights on their deal and partnering relationship. IP rights are material to success in almost every deal, and can no longer be just shrugged off.
As digital and AI-based solutions become more widespread, the need for ICT professionals is further increasing. There is consequently a need to train more specialists or actively seek them from outside of Finland. Moreover, technology is advancing considerably faster than legislation. Good examples include the ongoing debates about whether AI can act as an inventor and issues of liability concerning decisions made by artificial intelligence: who is responsible when, for example, a self-driving car causes an accident?
As we get better at utilising big data, privacy protection and related legislation must also evolve. There is a need to redefine who can use the data, in what circumstances, and what counts as misuse of the data. Further consideration must also be given to the kinds of exceptional situations in which the rules can be bent. In health care, for instance, disclosure of information is critical to patient wellbeing: for example, when a child’s need for care is analysed with one solution, it is possible to provide a better care recommendation upon second application with the information from the first application. If information is not to be disclosed, the patient’s parents may never become aware of the need for care. In curbing global epidemics, too, it is important to be able to quickly decide that data is to be made available to a sufficient number of parties.
As digitalisation accelerates, cyber threats must be taken ever more seriously. With the digitalisation of the automotive industry, cars have already become data centres that can be infiltrated without authorisation. Therefore, I expect the automotive industry to develop ways to detect and prevent attacks. The development of batteries is also interesting in terms of the automotive industry: when will we have environmentally friendly and longer-lasting batteries?
In addition to new innovations, it would be great to see Finnish investors thinking more long-term. When the aim is to get one’s money out as soon as possible, the Finnish investor may withdraw from a project too soon and a foreign company will take over, also taking over any IP and rights to its development and use. The accumulation of returns may take several years, which means that the money will go to foreign investor companies instead of Finland.
In my own industry, I expect to see search tools that make better use of AI and big data – and many more new innovations to patent for our patent attorneys!
In China, AI solutions are a hot topic. Universities, research institutes and companies are developing, for example, autopilot, smart cities, disease diagnostics and audio recognition. Interesting future innovations involve telecommunications, renewable energy sources and blockchains. Technologies related to IoT and big data are also trending.
China has the second largest market in the world, which is attracting more and more foreign companies. In 2019, the number of patent applications from foreign companies in China reached 157,000, representing an increase of 6%. Chinese companies have now also realised that they need to learn the rules of the intellectual property protection in order to succeed in global competition.
China has more than 40,000 IP agencies that handle trademark work and more than 2,500 that handle patent work. Not only does competition help the IP industry grow, it also has a positive impact on the development of legislation and IP rights.
The Chinese government is continuously improving IP rights. For example, last year, CNIPA (National Intellectual Property Administration of China) started the ‘Blue Sky’ initiative that sorted out hundreds of thousands of low-quality patent applications. Those efforts are continuing. We also predict that Chinese companies’ willingness to invest and innovate will win over their caution now that China and the US have reached the phase one agreement in the trade dispute. This, in turn, will drive the IP industry to provide more high-quality service to secure IP assets.
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