These days, IP Law firms are part of an ever-changing landscape, with new legislation, regulation and challenges always evolving. The IP sector has seen a lot of technology solutions launching lately - some of which have focused on using technology to replace human effort. But, the best technology empowers lawyers to be either more efficient or to generate accurate insight from IP information.
Ian Johnson, Head of IP legal at CPA Global sat down with inside Counsel to discuss how technological innovations are shaping the IP Law firm industry, and how law firms can position themselves to best take advantage of the opportunities presented.
In CPA Global’s recent whitepaper, “Adapt. Evolve. Thrive”, IP Law firms are encouraged to embrace innovation and technology for more efficient operations and enhanced client collaboration, standing out from competition. Technology should enhance the role of a law firm not replace it, according to Johnson. Technological innovations can help IP law firms maximize their time, reducing the hours spent on administrative tasks and utilize their expertise in more effective areas.
“Technology is increasingly being used to mine big data for business and IP insight for IP law firms. Big data analytics provides compelling opportunities for law firms,” he explained. “The data can deliver insight that allow clients to maximize the potential of their inventions, and protect themselves from competition. Law firms that can help clients to do this add significant value to the client relationship.”
Today, the four key changes that are impacting law firms are: market dynamics and client pressures, legal and regulatory changes, new competitors and business models, and new technology, information and analytics.
“The IP industry is more focused on technology than it has ever been, so IP law firms need to understand the implications of this – they need to evolve to thrive,” he said. “There are also two big opportunities that come from the faster, increasingly digitized IP industry: the opportunity to embrace innovation and technology and the chance for law firms to stand out from competition.”
Recent events in key jurisdictions have significantly impacted the law firm market. For example, in Europe, Brexit has caused uncertainty over the future of IP and its law firms. So, what could Brexit mean for the Unitary Patent?
“Leaving the EU could potentially see UK qualified trademark and design attorneys/lawyers losing the right to represent their clients before EU institutions, including the EUIPO and the EU courts,” he explained. “It could also result in the UK legal profession being denied from access to useful IP enforcement tools for their clients, like pan-European counterfeit enforcement measures.”
In North America, the change in the patent system from ‘first to invent’ to ‘first to file’ pressurizes businesses to file early – adapting their IP strategy. However, according to Johnson, the Inter Partes review and the outcomes of the Halo and Stryker cases have made it easier for patents, once granted, to be challenged.
“To date, technology deployed by the IP industry has been evolutionary,” he said “While fax and then email has replaced paper correspondence, the fundamental processes and practices of the industry remain rooted in the pre-digital era – where papers were lodged at patent offices and long processes led to the granting of protection.”
Historically, IP professionals have struggled against the weight of data lodged in patent offices. Per the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), global volume of patent documents is over 50 million with a further 28 million records of trademarks and emblems. WIPO also estimates that as much as 25 percent of patent data on public registers is inaccurate, which could be caused by something like misspelling on a patent application or uncertainty around ownership driven by the buying and selling of IP.
“Just as so many other industries have been disrupted by technology, the IP industry is ripe for such a revolution,” said Johnson. “The availability of platform technology, backed by the computing and storage capability to secure, manage and manipulate large sets of data, is exactly the right environment to make this happen.”
Companies are now accustomed to user friendly software, and want to see the same intuitive functions in business interactions as they do on social platforms. Clients are upgrading their technology regularly and want to work with partners who show the same commitment to continuous improvement. There are many additional business opportunities for law firms who can demonstrate that they know their clients’ competitive IP landscape.
According to Johnson, clients are interested in patent quality, not purely from a standard of legal defensibility but from a commercial perspective. And, they are increasingly focused on generating value - and they want to work with law firms that have considered carefully how they can add value and deliver efficiencies, which can be challenging to differentiate as an IP law firm.
He added, “Technology insight and efficiencies offer a real opportunity for firms to increase their relevance to a client base and stand out from competitors.”