20 Nov 2013
Future Tech Protection
Dr Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and IBM Vice President of Innovation
According to Dr Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and IBM Vice President of Innovation, “the very nature of what constitutes technology is changing.” How to protect that technology is also evolving, according to Dr Myerson, who will speak at next month’s Business of IP Asia Forum.
Technology has moved beyond finding solutions to a technical problem to resolving societal issues. As such, innovations that involve several parts or a service rather than a single object create new issues on how to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.
Integration is key, said Dr Meyerson. He pointed to IBM’s Smarter Planet, an initiative in which IBM works with companies, cities and communities to harness data to help transform their enterprises and institutions, as an example.
Collaborative innovation, where several players work together under a defined set of IP terms, will become more common, according to Dr Meyerson.
“As your requirement in capital expenses goes up in a given field, you will see more and more collaborative innovation. As an example, in the semi-conductor industry, this has been a practice for decades because of the extraordinary capital costs.”
Maria Smith, IP partner
One innovation that will have IP implications is 3D printing, according to Maria Smith, an IP partner at Baker & McKenzie in Hong Kong. While advantages for brand owners include customisation, use of less material, and the possibility of recycling materials, 3D printing also exposes a brand to new counterfeiting risks.
“3D printing will make copying easier, faster and cheaper,” Ms Smith said. “Brand owners could face widespread cloning of their products and copying of their design. Individuals skilled in making 3D model files can create and upload them to the Internet and make them widely available."
Ms Smith pointed to an increasing trend towards sharing online design files, while some file-sharing websites have recently added a 3D printer design files as a category. But she noted that brand owners can learn how to tackle this challenge from such fields as the music industry.
“Just as digital copying had a huge impact on the music and film industry, 3D printing will significantly impact the manufacture and sale of goods,” Ms Smith said. “The success of the iTunes store in the music industry should provide brand owners with an effective precedent on how to combat illegal online file sharing. The large number of music downloads through iTunes has made a substantial contribution to the increase in global recorded music revenues, since digital copying of music became widespread.”
Billy Lam, Vice President of Business Development for Transpacific IP Group’s Hong Kong office
“It is a very interesting issue to discuss, when it answers your question with something that leads essentially to an invention,” Dr Meyerson said. “How do you share an invention with a bunch of transistors? It’s a very provoking question. I suspect it’s easily solvable, but it’s an issue we’ve never faced. A system did not have the possibility of independent reasoning. Now, they’re beginning to develop something that at least looks more like reason.”
It’s not just what is being invented but where. According to Billy Lam, Vice President of Business Development for Transpacific IP Group’s Hong Kong office, innovation in Asia and, in particular, mainland China, is catching up to the leaders in the United States, Europe and Japan – and at a faster pace than many realise.
“”We do foresee that China may lead the world in certain R&D areas, such as telecommunication, computer science and material science in the next decade or two,” Mr Lam said.
To develop further, Asian innovators need to create products and brands that extend beyond their own region, according to Mr Lam, who cited Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi as an example. “Its smartphones and TVs are taking the world by storm, and its products are targeting global customers. If well-planned and used wisely, the intellectual property protection system would offer an effective means to protect and create value for their creations.”
New Commercialisation Opportunities
Issues such as how developments in technology pose new challenges for IP protection will be addressed at next month’s in Hong Kong
“Just think about [a call centre] a script – it’s maddening because the script has to be written [so] that you run people through a whole series of tests that are far from ideal only because they are safe,” Mr Meyerson said. “Having a call centre that actually knows and understands what the person asks, you don’t have to read from a script but could go directly to the answer, that is very powerful.”
Ms Smith said that 3D technology will create new opportunities for brand owners. While making use of trademarks and registering designs are important, commercialising design files once 3D printing becomes commonplace is another way to help counter the loss of sales and limit privacy.
“Brand owners engaged in product design [may] change their current business models by setting up an equivalent of the iTunes store for licensing or selling 3D model files,” Ms Smith said. “Being the first to establish such a model in the digital design market would certainly give those brand owners a more competitive advantage.”
Dr Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and IBM Vice President of Innovation will be a featured speaker at the Business of IP Asia Forum, 5-6 December, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.