Intellectual Property – a brave new digital world

A generation ago intellectual property lawyers had it easy! Video games were in their infancy, the internet was barely taking its first halting steps and streaming was something you did when suffering a severe dose of man flu. How times have changed. As if the topsy-turvy political roller coaster was not enough, developments in technology pose their own unique questions. Moreover, clients are constantly demanding better ways to manage and leverage their IP. Against this backdrop, there has surely never been a more exciting time to be an intellectual property solicitor.

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Intellectual property lawyers are busy. One clear barometer of this is the increasing number of intellectual property solicitor jobs in Manchester. IP may be an intangible asset, but it is a valuable one, often inextricably linked to the value of any business and companies are well aware of the need to protect it.

IP lawyers are also presiding over unprecedented political change. I’m as exhausted as the next person when it comes to discussing the vicissitudes of Brexit. But the debate over deal or no-deal poses potentially serious consequences concerning enforceability and protection of IP. How IP law will develop once we are outside the EU is also an unknown. Post Brexit, UK courts will no longer be bound by decisions handed down by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This could have the effect of preventing further harmonisation. If the UK is no longer bound to follow decisions of the ECJ or implement EU Directives, some divergence between the two bodies of law is almost inevitable.

Quite apart from the political distractions, intellectual property solicitors must also cope with the seismic ructions caused in the wake of the digital juggernaut. IP specialists now find themselves advising clients in a fast-paced world where law often struggles to keep up. And what of artificial intelligence? How does one at decide ownership of machine-generated IP? Can copyright be attributed to a chat bot?!

Whilst academic lawyers may enjoy these ruminations, we are thankfully still a long way from having to answer the more major hypotheses posed by the evolution of genuine general AI. However, it is worth pointing out differences do already exist between the ways some intellectual property regimes treat the ownership of machine-generated IP.

It’s not all bad. One area of innovation that could make the management of IP rights easier is the emergence of blockchain. IP lawyers have already postulated over its application in certain tricky areas, such as the gathering of royalties. Smart contracts, for example, may well create a more efficient method for their administration.

Better and more efficient monetisation of IP will certainly go down well with clients. Intellectual property, particularly that of large corporations with vast portfolios has typically been difficult to accurately analyse and leverage. The ability to collect and process more data on how rights are administered has the potential to realise far greater value especially when coupled with an approach that puts far greater business focus on intellectual property.

In an interesting article by Raconteur last week, Josue Ortiz, Director of ClearViewIP commented on the importance for organisations of integrating their intellectual property into their corporate strategy. ClearViewIP are a consultancy which uses analytics to help clients release the true commercial advantage of their IP portfolios by enabling them to measure and report their IP just like any other business asset.

Intellectual property lawyers don’t look like they’ll be short of work any time soon. IP has always been the backbone of certain areas such as the creative industries as well as research and development. However, the exponential growth of the technology sector coupled with an increasing realisation that IP should be at the heart of all corporate strategy means that the skills of IP lawyers will remain in high demand.