The IP office of the future, according to IP Australia’s Michael Schwager

02 May 2022

The IP office of the future, according to IP Australia’s Michael Schwager

A lot of developments are happening all at once in the world of intellectual property.

There are the new technologies shaking the world and revolutionizing how we do things – from mobile apps and AI to blockchain and data analytics.

And then Covid-19 came along, prompting business establishments and government services, including IP offices, to digitize immediately. This embrace of modern technology by IP offices around the world in their resolve to deliver their services despite the prohibitions of Covid-19 have helped raise the number of IP filings globally.

This was followed, in late 2021, by Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement about Facebook Inc. being renamed to Meta and the imminent coming of the metaverse. The concept of this parallel 3D virtual world which many consider as the next-level Internet, raises the spectre of even more IP filings, IP infringement activities and litigation.

According to the 2020 IP Office (IPO) of the Future Report, the other developments or changes in the IP world include the “soaring value” of intangible assets; increasing importance, volume and complexity of IP rights; strengthening of global trade; and IP’s role in fueling needed innovation becoming more concentrated, among others.

The report further stated that many IPOs have also branched out into other endeavors. From being mere offices where IP applications are filed and processed, these IPOs have shifted to become veritable hubs engaged in a myriad of other activities. These are activities that promote innovation, provide IP education and support the development of more inclusive public policy, among others.

Given all these, the report said that IPOs of the future should then be “nimble and robust enough to absorb, manage, facilitate and enable change.”

According to Michael Schwager, director general of IP Australia, the report envisions the IP office of the future as a one-stop-shop for IP services offering IP rights management to customers through a range of accessible and convenient channels.

“New and emerging technologies provide us with exciting opportunities to evolve how we serve our customers. This includes exploring the use of AI for greater effectiveness and efficiency in processing and administration, and blockchain could enable increased transparency of systems and records. Mobile apps and virtual assistants could provide real-time assistance for customers, and instantaneous prior art searches using AI and data analytics,” Schwager explained.

He also said that ensuring IP law and policy keep pace with the evolving market is a key challenge and an opportunity as well.

To begin suiting up to become an IPO of the future, Schwager said IP offices should be alert to how new and emerging technologies are changing the IP ecosystems. They should also be alert about how they may evolve to support innovation and better serve their customers.

“This includes finding efficiencies in the administration and examination of IP rights,” he said, “and continuously adapting to improve the quality and consistency of outcomes.”

He added that IPOs should not just settle with the use of these modern technologies. Instead, they also have to continuously consider the impact of these emerging technologies on the fundamentals of IP.

“For example, the huge growth of AI technology has raised important questions around ownership, inventorship and patentability. These technological developments and the response from IP offices also highlight the importance of global consistency for our businesses and innovators – they benefit if rules can be developed consistently across jurisdictions,” Schwager explained.

IP Australia has undertaken a significant digital transformation in customer-facing channels in recent years. Initiatives included the rebuilding of the office’s digital services channels using a co-design process with its customers.

IP Australia also introduced a legislation in 2018 that allows computerized decision-making to be part of the administration of IP rights.


Espie Angelica A. de Leon

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