The importance of intellectual property rights in technology

25 July 2019

As technology continues to alter and change the very fabric of how we live and work, it is clear that almost every industry is set to be (or already being) disrupted by innovation. The importance of intellectual property (IP) rights in technology should be obvious. Ideas are often seen to be the currency of the 21st century, yet it is the ability to protect them that gives them their value.

Our recent survey and report Multiplicity: Smart choices in disruptive times reveals the importance of IP is being ignored in the boardroom. With disruptive technology creating a more complex legal environment for businesses, only 45% of companies discussing IP regularly at board level is deeply worrying.

IP & IT: Pirates or shipmates? As evolving technology creates an era of deep turbulance our survey of senior execs reveals how shaping the right intellectual property strategy can help businesses master the mayhem and reap rich rewards…93% think IP is important to the business yet only 45% regularly include it in board-level discussions. Get on board: make sure IP is a business-wide issue and receives enough attention in the board room. 81% think AI is likely to disrupt business with blockchain trailing at just 10% - however, only 14% see AI as having a negative impact compared to 54% for blockchain, highest of all tech listed. Take on tech: engage with tech early and carefully – don't underestimate those that seem less apparent. 72% of execs have 5 year plans in place and 55% have 3 year plans but 2 year plans are overlooked with only 22% having charted a course for the short term. Plan your passage: have short, medium and long term plans in place. 65% rate the Chinese market as important to their strategy – understandable as it's the fastest growing and tops the world in patent filings; surprisingly only 24% have filings there themselves. Set a course for China: prioritise a presence in this hotbed of tech innovation and IP. Gowling WLG are experts at navigating the uncharted waters of disruptive new developments and are on hand to help.

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Why is IP so important?

IP protection is significant in an economy disrupted by technology as it can be the difference between risk and reward for businesses. Patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs are all gaining increasing significance alongside a dramatic rise in other types of IP protection such as trade secrets and non-disclosure agreements. Managing IP effectively will ensure protection for your ideas while also offering the opportunity of monetizing them.

In a previous article, we discussed how IP strategy and what management can learn from the disruptors that are entering their markets. Our report highlights that it is critical for a successful IP strategy to involve the whole business. It should always be seen as more than just a 'legal' issue as it pervades multiple different departments including HR, marketing and research and development, even if it is not always obvious how.

Planning ahead with an IP strategy

Delving into the disruptors themselves, we discovered they are showing little sign of disappearing and as such, savvy companies may want to act now to get a head start. Our research showed that in many cases businesses are overlooking their short-term plans in favour of the long-term, with 72% of those surveyed stating they had five-to-ten year plans in place yet only 22% had one-to-two year IP strategies.

Strategies need to reflect the rolling, churning nature of the situation and with technology changing the landscape so quickly it's essential that short-term strategies are put in place to make sure businesses keep up.

Understanding the importance of registering IP in China

A relative newcomer to IP, China's domestic market is now the fastest-growing in the world, outpacing the US and Europe in patent filings and rapidly improving its courts and enforcement. Yet despite flagging China as a key market, only 34% of our respondents' portfolios include filings made in China.

Businesses wanting to capitalise on innovation using IP strategies and avoid risk need to be considering the jurisdiction as an essential part of their plans. Chinese innovators like Huawei are challenging the US tech sector domination, while the country's huge investment in physics, life sciences, and AI makes it only a matter of time before it takes over almost all key technology fields.

Making smart IP choices in disruptive times

To further understand what IP strategies you need to be considering as disruptive technology continues to develop, download Multiplicity: Smart choices in disruptive times.


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Multiplicity: Smart choices in disruptive times

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