"Is there disruption in the IP services industry?" This paper, based around the theme of the LES (Australia/New Zealand) Annual Conference which took place in May 2016, looks at that question from the different viewpoints of the players or stakeholders in the IP management. It also analyzes the IP life cycle or ecosystem and the products and/or services being supplied in the IP sector.
Before answering this fundamental question, one needs to understand what is meant by disruption. One possible definition is "disturbances or problems which intercept an event, activity or process" with synonyms such as "interference, upset or confusion" often being used to describe the term. These definitions all have negative connotations and, as later described in this paper, the IP services industry can be considered more in "transition" than as a disruption. A transition is a process or a period of change from one state to another, and synonyms like transformation, adaptation, gradation and evolution — all with a more positive connotation — are better descriptions. They reflect more closely the development — past, current and future — of the IP services industry.
In addressing this question, two other terms also need to be recognized. These are "harmonization" and "streamlining." Harmonization can be considered as an "adjustment of differences and inconsistencies among different measurements, methods, procedures, schedules, specifications or systems to make them uniform or mutually compatible." This has been an underlying state of affairs within the IP sector over many decades. Streamlining is the "improvement of the efficiency of a process, business or organization by nullifying or eliminating unnecessary steps and using modernizing techniques." Accordingly, when we consider the IP ecosystem as a whole we can see that harmonization and streamlining by many of its key stakeholders does, in fact, create the environment for the transition or evolution of the IP services industry.
Governments have been attempting, for over 130 years, to harmonize and streamline the system(s) for IP owners while also creating challenges and opportunities for the IP service industry to maximize the benefits of such improved systems for IP owners.
The stakeholders of the IP ecosystem
Who are the key stakeholders within the IP sector or ecosystem? In its purest form, there are the IP owners themselves (individuals and corporations) seeking IP rights consistent with their business objectives; governments through their agencies providing the IP infrastructure to obtain IP rights — at the international, national and multilateral or regional levels; and the IP service providers. This latter grouping can be further categorized into three: the traditional attorney services, the commoditized type services (such as renewals) and the management services (such as outsourcing). Looking at each of these stakeholders helps one understand and address the issue of disruption (or transition?).
IP owners are the cornerstone — or ultimate drivers — of the sector in that they seek, demand and require IP rights with certainty. They also seek the maximum protection (both in terms of scope and territory) and with such rights being provided in the minimum time frame, at minimum cost, but at the same time without any reduction in quality of service or outcomes. While these objectives might be considered aspirational, they nonetheless provide the drivers for the other two categories of stakeholders.
For more information about the different viewpoints of the players or stakeholders in the IP management, download the whitepaper below.
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