Background paper on the new challenges facing IP

[Posting has been updated to correct links to event video]

The Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (GFCC – https://www.thegfcc.org) has put out an excellent background paper on intellectual property (IP) as part of their “Frame the Future” series of discussions (registration at https://framethefuture.thegfcc.org/ and intro video at https://youtu.be/HmwZfbQB9ZQ?t=12). The background paper, “Intellectual Property Systems”, is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/11AMnsQRtIt7zQPW8tt76oVnCP4N-aO3q/view. The full video of the event is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spiI0BLVwOc.

The paper outlines a number of trends affecting and challenges facing IP. Among those is the increasing importance of data leading to greater emphasis on data governance and stewardship.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) poses an interesting new challenge – both in the protection of AI algorithms and data as well as the application of IP to AI created knowledge. For example, how to you patent a non-transparent algorithm and who gets IP rights to AI-created content?

Not touched upon in the discussion but mentioned in passing in the paper is the trend of more countries look to IP taxes to boost IP applications and incentives for innovation. It would be interesting to hear more on this, especially in light of the recent agreement on global corporate taxation which has major implications for the location of IP ownership.

Then there are all of the ongoing operational issues of any IP system: global enforceability, the cost and time it takes to get a patent, the cost and time of licensing IP, barriers to successful technology transfer, the use of IP to block rather than facilitate innovation, the disproportionate burden on smaller firms, and the difficulty of any IP system keeping up with accelerating technology development.

A large part of the discussion looked at the perennial issue of what to share versus what to protect. This discussion is often framed as “open” versus “closed” or “strong” versus “weak.” But such an either/or view misses the complexities of IP. As the paper (and the discussion) noted, the real question is how to share and protect at the same time. This is becoming increasingly important as organization increasingly embrace concepts of open innovation and co-creation and as IP driven innovation becomes more collaborative, creative, and inclusive.

Balance between creator and user is part of the answer, as noted in the discussion. But as was also noted in the discussion, companies such as Lockheed both share and protect their IP depending on the business situation. I think a successful IP system must have this flexibility as well as balance.

And as I pointed out in the discussion, IP is just one part of intangible assets. And successful utilization of IP requires concomitant intangibles such as worker skills and organizational capacity. Thus, any IP system needs to be embedded not only in the context of an innovation strategy but also as part of a broader set of policies to facilitate investment in and utilization of intangible assets.

Today’s GFCC discussion was a good step forward in addressing IP systems around the world. I hope the discussions continue.

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