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Looking to the Future: Post-COVID-19 IP Innovation

IP Innovation is a serious topic of discussion in the wake of COVID-19. COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways, for the short-term and the long-term. Among the changes, we are seeing an unprecedented increase in the demand for innovations to address increased digital activity, remote environments, and entirely new ways of collaborating. New ideas will continue to permeate every industry as we move into 2021, leaving a permanent impact on the way we live and work.

In rapidly creating new technologies to address these needs, innovators and developers must ensure they protect their intellectual property (IP), whether borne from their own development or from collaborations among companies across industries. Companies also need to remain vigilant to avoid stepping on the IP of others.

Areas of IP Innovation

Utilization of AR/ VR for continuous collaboration

AR/VR has expanded well beyond entertainment, and the increase in remote environments has accelerated its adoption in many application areas. For example, as part of manufacturing machinery, workers need to have the ability to monitor and assess product development and analyze equipment.  With less workers being able to freely travel to manufacturing sites, AR/VR-based technology is being more widely adopted to allow employees to “be there.” For example, a supply chain line supervisor wearing AR glasses at a facility can transmit information in real time to remote team members, and workers in different regions can share invaluable information for others to evaluate. In the healthcare space, AR/VR can be utilized for remote diagnostics and during surgery itself. For example, doctors can overlay scans over the body as the doctor performs surgery, or use VR to help patients understand the details of the steps a doctor will take during surgery.

Utilization of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has already faced extensive development across industries and application areas. For example, together with improvements in graphics processing units (GPUs), AI is finding greater applications in autonomous vehicles, cancer detection and speech recognition, among other developments. In autonomous vehicles, GPUs underlay very fast parallel processing of huge amounts of data, carrying out extensive amounts of calculations involved in AI algorithms to perform tasks such as real-time object detection as the vehicle travels down the road. In a remote environment, AI can be used from the supervision of employees’ work to providing better platforms for responding to questions, and more efficient recruitment.

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The 5G race

With the increased communication via video and a huge uptick in transmitting digital information with remote environments, the 5G race is accelerating more than ever. Cisco forecasts that 1 million minutes of video will be streamed or downloaded every second in 2021. The increased use of AR/VR across remotely situated people creates that much more need for significant bandwidth. Not to mention people communicating in even more ways using their smartphones, pushing networks to handle greater bandwidth. The voracious need for bandwidth and smooth communications over networks has led to even faster adoption of 5G.

Emphasis on cybersecurity

Today’s increased remote environment means data being distributed in many more locations on different systems, and being transmitted across numerous platforms and possible networks. It also means that hackers keep getting more sophisticated too. Accordingly, there’s a much greater emphasis on the need to secure both personal and company data in such a highly distributed environment.  Increasing mechanisms beyond traditional firewalls, locating potential breaches before they infect systems, and implementing additional measures to prevent stolen data are being formulated, created and implemented and will be key going forward. Cybersecurity threats are real, and companies and people need to spend more time enhancing protection accordingly.

Considerations for IP innovation Protection

Along with massive disruptions of COVID-19, the pandemic has also delivered the silver lining of expedited creation of IP and the adoption of new innovations. Companies should seek strategic protection of their key innovations, including evaluating seeking coverage where appropriate in various application areas. Thus, companies innovating in one space should consider how that core innovation may apply in other spaces. It’s also important to stay clear of third-party patents.

As more companies collaborate with other companies – including across industries rather than trying to develop everything in-house – companies need to manage the flow and protection of IP developed on a collaborative basis. In such situations – e.g., a manufacturing company and a high-tech company coming together to create a solution for the manufacturing company to conduct its business on a more distributed basis – establishing who will own the resulting IP, as well as be responsible for protecting it, is key. Companies must also consider as they develop and seek IP protection, how their IP works with the innovations of other companies in technologies that must work together for the solution at hand, e.g., AR/VR technologies that combine with communication technologies.

The immediate impact of IP innovation affects business strategies and associated operations, and will create permanent changes as we move toward a more resilient, post-pandemic world.

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