Author: Canaan Bridges Consulting Inc.
A recent WIPO report indicates that two-thirds of the global filings in patents, trademarks and industrial designs came from Asia. These are interesting times. Trends in IP activity is regarded by some as an indication of innovativeness in an economy. But what is innovation? Does innovation and intellectual property mean the same thing?
IP rights give owners specific privileges as a reward for bringing their content to market. High IP activity in the form of registration only affects innovation if the IP is active in domestic, regional or international markets. This means that IP registrations bring little value to rightholders if the IP is not commercialized – value comes from monetizing the IP asset in markets.
There’s an interesting relationship between innovation and intellectual property. Innovation involves a new or different way of doing something, whether via a process, the product itself, or how a service is performed. What does this mean for IP rights? Although very few products or services are new, innovation happens in IP when IP-registrable products and services (define) how consumers interact with the specific good or service. For example, AI and machine learning technology transform how we interact with our cars, dishwashers, washing machines, and even window blinds in our homes. With one click on our smartphones or a voice prompt to “Alexa”, it is possible to activate or change the settings on many devices without physically touching any of them. This may create new brand value and increase brand revenues for these products. It may also allow for diversification of the IP portfolio, building new patent-related content for rightsholders. Innovation, then, is an aspect of IP.
Is it possible to have innovation without producing IP? Yes. During the course of any day, there is something about our daily activities, whether at work, home or in leisure, that we do differently – either leading to the same result, a better way of achieving the same result, or sometimes it fosters new developments in products or services. For example, a recording artist may choose to have a portion of their singles available on vinyl records, a change from a previous strategy of digital and cd markets only. This action represents innovation in the delivery of the songs and may even create new modes of claiming IP, but still, it is not very substantial on the innovation scale. A publisher may change how an online popular e-magazine is formatted and add new column features. Still, no IP is generated from reformatting the e-magazine itself unless new creative works (original pictures, works of art etc.) are added to the publication. It is also very possible that innovation may have little impact on revenue. The re-formatting of the e-magazine publication will not turn into more subscription dollars without content that appeals to the consumer base.
Innovation is essential to IP – it fosters research and development into products and can build momentum in global markets, but it is not IP. However, for IP assets to thrive, it needs an innovation-focused economy with a conducive eco-system that encourages strong vitality in IP-intensive businesses while providing reasonable terms for users to access these commodities. As part of the sustainable development goals, innovation is significant to most economies. Our approach to innovation impacts the extent and quality of development over time.