With the shifting sands of patent law, building a patent strategy that will stand the test of both time and legal challenges isn’t getting any easier. And for certain industries it is becoming more important. Reviewing the Thomson Reuters State of Innovation report for 2014 illustrates an uptick for almost every sector in patenting: Telecommunications (33% increase), Automotive (35% increase), Medical Devices (26% increase) and so on.
One of the larger ‘hidden’ growth items that was interesting is the “Data Transmission Networks”, up 27% with almost 56,000 new patents filed in 2013. Behind that title is the infrastructure that keeps our internet rolling, the data centers and the way the information highway supports the digital aspect of most businesses.
The reason why this is an important item to note is that for many businesses looking to grow their technology that have any kind of interaction with data, there is an opportunity (and risk) to ensure that the information infrastructure that supports the technology is protect. Multiple older and industrialized businesses may believe their technology is bereft of the data infrastructure, but two simple examples show where the data infrastructure can be used:
Oil & Mining: Monitoring of equipment through the cloud – how do you efficiently and cost effectively get data out of a mine or well to enable real-time tracking and predict critical failures in the field?
Transportation & Travel: Monitoring and tracking of transportation trends in real-time, or travel spending trends of passengers – how do you extract, combine, and create models out of the big-data that can result in critical business intelligence to give a competitive edge?
Companies that rapidly develop data and information driven supporting infrastructure, or even client offerings, around old-school fields such as Mining or Transportation are positioning themselves to move their industry into the next digital age. The question for these firms to ask is whey they get there, who will own the IP rights to the way they have evolved – or will they have filed the visionary IP that is needed to be the leader of the new industry?
Without question there is another venture contemplating how to digitize the industrial age, and the way to get the data moved from earth boring machines and into the cloud where it can be analyzed for efficiencies and opportunities.
To address this and create a patent strategy that fits both the industry direction, as well as matches the patent trends, industrial based firms can approach IP with the following actions:
- Creating a patent portfolio profile that covers both existing R&D efforts, but also adds in the breakthrough innovation piece of digital technology.
- Analyzing the patent trends of the current space to identify where gaps and clusters of IP exist, taking into account the trends of patent law as they pertain to the digital and software world.
- Building an IP team that has the technical, legal, and business perspective of both the industrial needs of the present, and the digital needs of tomorrow.
Shifting business that were historically rooted in industrial machinery and equipment is already happening. Patent filings in the high-tech area around the topic of data and communications have been experiencing rapid growth. At a certain point in time they will collide, and it will be the venture that understood both of these factors that will end up on top.