Competition with Microsoft and Google

  • If you are in the business of search you cannot ignore Google; and if your business is bringing people together then Facebook is unavoidable
  • Companies outside the IP bubble have the potential to cause huge disruption to the industry
  • There are opportunities to revolutionise customer-relationship management and HR systems in the IP industry

If you do not see Google and Facebook as competitors, you are probably doing something wrong. Or, more specifically, if you are in the business of search you cannot ignore Google, and if your business is bringing people together then Facebook is unavoidable.

As one respondent put it, the IP market is “a bubble”. However, much of what happens outside that bubble may have an impact on IP as well. Even the biggest IP providers are minnows when compared to tech companies such as Apple or Amazon, IT providers such as Accenture or SAP or any of the big four accountancy firms. Companies outside the IP bubble have the potential to cause huge disruption to the industry. The head of one IP law firm summarises bluntly: “The IP industry as a whole is constrained by 1980s legacy systems – old technology, which is difficult to integrate and expensive to maintain, with islands of data and not enough insight.” He believes there are opportunities to revolutionise customer-relationship management and HR systems, for example: “I’m amazed companies such as Workday and Salesforce haven’t had a role to play in intellectual property yet.”

Given that many AI tools can be applied in different fields, it would be rash to rule out such intrusion. For example, if a tech company develops an image recognition tool in e-commerce, what is stopping it applying that to trademarks, either through its own development or with a partner? The tech companies seem happy enough to disrupt businesses such as automotive or grocery shopping, so what would stop them disrupting IP services? The only obstacle is likely to be the value of the market.

In one respect, at least, IP companies are already fighting the big players: recruitment. “We’re hiring lots of technologists and data scientists. But that comes at a high cost – how do we attract them to come to us? We are competing with Microsoft and Google, who have much deeper pockets,” as one chief executive states.

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