Blockchain and AI are considered to be the present and future drivers of all tech domains. Over the last decade, these technologies have found their way into every industry, revolutionising the way that they work. While ‘blockchain’ is defined as an indestructible ledger of linked independent blocks that store encrypted information, ‘AI’ can be roughly defined as a man-made computing device’s ability to mimic and execute the cognitive functions of a human brain. A recent workshop organised by WIPO highlighted the need for blockchain technology in IP offices and provided ideas on how it can be used in IP asset management. Following this, many IP offices have begun to see how they can implement blockchain and AI in their practices.
Use of blockchain along with other technologies such as natural language processing, AI and machine learning fully or partially automates any processes that are human-assisted or manual. Every industry is trying to implement this technology to either reduce manual effort or increase the efficacy of their work. However, the bigger question is how the implementation of a digital ledger along with AI and machine learning will change IP office practices for innovators, investors, practitioners and examiners.
Blockchain, AI and intellectual property
While the insertion of blockchain and AI into every industry seems like a one-sided agreement, it is mutually beneficial when it comes to intellectual property. Blockchain and AI will play vital roles in the development of completely automated offices. Further, IP rights protect innovation in the blockchain, AI and natural language processing domains and the same innovations can be used to strengthen the existing way of handling intellectual property in IP offices.
The concept of distributed nodes will strengthen IP offices and augment the processing of patents, trademarks and copyright. Offices in many countries are embracing these technologies and exploring various avenues to implement the artificial brain and tamper-proof storage in every form of intellectual property.
Blockchain-redefining patent services
Generating blockchain-based records will increase the speed, responsiveness, efficiency and processing of applications. A digital ledger for patents will expedite the communication, transparency and security of records between examiners, inventors, attorneys and clients. This smart approach will improve the users’ experiences at IP offices. Blockchain and AI can help to smooth as well as to accelerate the functioning of every stage of processing a patent application, which includes:
- filing application documents – use of blockchain will streamline registration;
- screening applications and classification in technology groups – various technologies (eg, natural language processing, machine learning and AI) help in tech classifications and analysis of application content;
- assigning to examiners – AI tech allows application allotment automatically to examiner based on technology, individual workload and case timelines.
- examination stage – fast and smart search interface will evolve using AI and machine learning. It will provide assistance in exploring classification and formulation of search queries for patent and non-patent literature searches;
- opposition and infringement suits – blockchain will help to evaluate and assess the authenticity of the claims. It will result in quicker settlement of patent lawsuits along with substantial cost savings for both the parties; and
- licensing – smart contracts will help in the fast commercialisation of innovations. The blockchain based trading platform will help innovators catch investors’ attention. This will simplify and add value to the licensing process.
How technology will change user experience with patent, trademark and copyright
Data on digital ledgers can be used to both defend and support IP claims. Further, the automatic execution of licensing can be achieved through smart contracts. The data in the ledger is unchangeable and immutable, which is why this technology is so desirable for IP professionals.
Records on a digital ledger contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. The technology keeps a record of intellectual property and helps to identify the rightful creator or owner.
Distributed digital ledgers record any transaction or change in record in real time and in chronological order. This can speed up the pace of actions to be taken by the IP office and service user.
Challenges to standardised adoption of technology by various IP offices
In order to reap the maximum benefits from a universal business model, standardisation up to a certain level will be required (eg, establishing a common tech framework to support interoperability and fast adaptation). The problem with this is and always will be the issue of aligning multiple national and regional judicial frameworks as well as traditions.
The next main encumbrance to large-scale use of blockchain is its exceedingly high energy consumption. The cost of energising all nodes and providing for appropriate cooling means for an uninterrupted operation, make it one of the most expensive types of database to maintain.
Blockchain tech in the IP space might also face implementation challenges as developers are mostly private or semi-private enterprises, which currently lack a regulating body to ensure public interest. This may delay the speed at which we see growth in this area.
This tech could be adopted quickly if regulating authorities address the public fear of using cryptocurrency as well as raise awareness of digital record protection, immunity from hacking and interference in data accessibility rights. Further, AI itself has always scared people, as it has the potential to replace jobs or extensively alter work dynamics.
The blend of tamper-proof registration and AI is a springboard for the development of all industries. The implementation of this in a domain that protects and strengthens every other tech domain is a priority as well as a welcome upgrade.
Thus far, the path laid down by WIPO is a vital stepping stone and has intrigued many IP offices into trying to integrate this technological duo in their plans for future workflows.
While we are still far from the successful implementation of these technologies in every stage of IP rights processing, the notion of it turning into a reality does not seem as far-fetched as it did a short time ago.
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