For the latest edition of the IP Trend Monitor's study, we focused on how Intellectual Property (IP) management is evolving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other societal factors. In addition to transforming IP professionals' work environments, recent events have brought trends like digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to the forefront of industry discussion.
Given that the tech world is in many ways a central focus of IP, it is hardly surprising - perhaps even fitting - that ongoing developments in technology would have a significant impact on IP management. In the IP Trend Monitor study 2021, Dennemeyer and CTC Legal Media record evidence of these external influences from an industry-wide survey conducted in late 2020 and examine how their effects manifest in real business.
The growing importance of digitalization
When asked about the degree to which digitalization was expected to change the processes and responsibilities of IP management, the vast majority (74%) of IP professionals responding to our query said that it would "to a large degree." Meanwhile, 15% said IP management would "completely" change as a result of digitalization, and only 9% expected it to change "slightly." Not a single respondent said that the phenomenon would not change IP management in any way.
Interestingly, these results show little difference from the 2018 study, when most people could not have imagined the transformative effects of a pandemic on the global economy. At that time, 71% said digitalization would massively alter IP management, while a slightly greater portion predicted either a complete transformation (16%) or a small shift (13%) in the profession. No one chose "not at all" in 2018, either.
As we addressed in our first post regarding the IP Trend Monitor study, digitalization measures in the face of COVID-19 and the subsequent move to remote operations had a tremendous effect on the IP sector. Not only were IP law and management professionals working primarily from home, but courts and regulatory agencies such as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and the European Patent Office (EPO) held virtual proceedings on patent cases for the first time in their histories. It is quite likely that this will be the norm for the foreseeable future, even with many nations rolling out vaccination programs throughout 2021. On this note, it is reassuring to see that most of our study respondents (68%) said that IP offices were handling the newly digitalized work environment "reasonably or very well."
Not surprisingly, most of the respondents to the Dennemeyer and CTC Legal Media survey expressed beliefs that face-to-face meetings and client travel (72% and 71%, respectively) would be much less common because of the increased convenience of digital communications. However, IP professionals were quick to note that organizations would have to bolster their IT infrastructure to account for largely decentralized workplaces. They also remarked that marketing and thought leadership would become much more critical in a post-pandemic IP sector.
The continued rise of automation and AI
Although the lion's share of questions in the 2020 Dennemeyer and CTC Legal Media survey focused on pandemic-related issues, we also revisited the central theme of the previous edition of IP Trend Monitor: the effects of automation and AI.
Some findings in 2020 were consistent with those of the previous year. For example, about the same proportion of respondents cited IP portfolio management as significantly affected by these advanced technologies: 77% in 2019 and 81% in 2020. Other areas saw major increases: While 58% thought automation and AI would affect trademark searches and clearances in 2019, 71% felt this way in 2020.
This pattern was repeated across several key areas of IP operation:
- Docketing: 43% in 2019, 71% in 2020
- Patent filing: 35% in 2019, 57% in 2020
- Trademark filing: 33% in 2019, 56% 2020
The complex AIs in machine-learning tools have had a tremendous impact on prior art searches, given their ability to sift through IP databases all over the world far more quickly and efficiently than past methods. Dennemeyer Octimine exemplifies this technology perfectly with its AI-driven search and analysis methods.
Shifting business needs
While any fears that AI would put IP professionals out of work are quite unfounded, it has become clear that the rising tide of new technologies will require those in the field to become more attuned to these advancements and develop new skills.
When asked about their opinions regarding the impact of AI on their business, 78% of respondents to our survey said IP attorneys would need to expand their skill sets to accommodate it. Also, 54% said that IP firms would be hiring more IT personnel, particularly those with automation expertise, in the future.
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