The IP industry accepts AI will be the way forward

  • The success of AI-powered services has made the market aware of what can be achieved
  • Until now, the biggest effect of technology has been in automating routine services
  • Areas where AI will dominate will include searching and clearance, prosecution, renewals and possibly even oppositions

As in other areas of law where aversion to risk has delayed the implementation of technology, AI has yet to deliver on its potential in the trademark sphere, although there are signs that this is changing. As one trademark service provider points out, less than 10 years’ ago the IP market was hostile to the use of AI tools: “Nobody thought it would be possible. In 2011 AI was like a swearword. Now there are AI applications in all areas of life. People are much more used to it.”

In trademarks, the success of AI-powered services – such as TrademarkNow (launched in 2012) and TrademarkVision (launched in 2013) – have made the market aware of what can be achieved. “The IP industry now accepts that this will be the way forward,” states one provider. There are several other factors that have contributed to this acceptance, including the tightening of corporate budgets (discussed further in our report on in-house trademark departments) and investments by IP offices, which have forced commercial providers to up their game. “The data analysis is much deeper now,” as one service provider executive explains.

Until now, the biggest effect of technology has been in automating routine services, such as renewals and portfolio management. Indeed, some brand owners now outsource all routine work to providers such as CPA Global or Brandstock. However, the next few years will see “more and better tools and services” predicts one executive. “The watchwords will be: better; cheaper; and faster.” Areas where AI will dominate will include searching and clearance, prosecution (at least for simple marks), renewals and possibly even oppositions. As one in-house trademark attorney explains: “It’s realistic to have the first response to an opposition drafted by a machine. It can be done from a template and sent for review.” All this will of course have a big effect on both in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice, as we discuss in our reports on those areas.

For service providers, there is a great opportunity to expand their role. One individual predicts they will be more involved in “brand clearance and brand protection in a larger context”. This means cutting out the IP attorneys and working directly with the business people who create and promote the brand. This changes the dynamic of protection. Today it is “very siloed” argues one executive: “Business people come up with a name and fall in love with it. The trademark comes after. We need to emphasise the importance of protection early in the process.” Technology enables this in at least the following three ways:

  • It will be much quicker than manual services – brand owners will be able to clear a campaign in weeks or even days, which is essential given how quickly products and services are developed and expand. Spending a year or more clearing a mark worldwide will be exceptional. As one trademark service provider states: "We can use technology to solve the time problem and speed up going to market at the brand creation level.” Another adds: “Naming decisions will happen in real time.”
  • As we discuss in our report on patent service providers, there will be more focus on risk analysis and mitigation – and technology tools will be able to give businesses reliable forecasts about the percentage risk in proceeding with a particular trademark or product, in ways that can be understood by executives as well as trademark attorneys. “In risk scoring, the proximity scoring is getting better and better,” claims one service provider.
  • The quality of results will improve exponentially, as more data is absorbed. This will enable the tools to become more proactive. For example, when a client creates a brand name today, technology may return results that show that name is not going to be viable in certain markets. Tomorrow, the computer may be able to suggest how to resolve the problem – recommending a similar name that is available or proposing how to resolve issues with third parties.

Much of this change will be driven by client needs, but service providers will also need to be proactive to identify gaps in knowledge and link up different systems dealing with brand creation, clearance and protection. “Technology has the potential to create names with you and give you a whole map,” espouses one provider. The only limitation is: “What makes sense for our core customers?” Another concurs: “The key is you need to know your clients inside-out.” A third adds: “We need to lead the market, not follow it, and create apps our customers haven’t thought of yet.”

The scope of what can be achieved in streamlining processes leads one provider to comment that providing new services to existing clients will be the key to growth: “We don’t need more customers! We just need better tools!” However, this streamlining may also disrupt existing relationships, as one service provider predicts: “We will partner with brand creation agencies. We can cut out a step and the names will be much better. It comes down to risk mitigation and being closer to the actual decision maker.”

Do you think the following will improve or worsen in the next 10 years?

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Quantity of work11.7641.1847.06
Quality of work11.7629.4158.82
Client satisfaction043.7556.25
Ability to hire good people17.6523.5358.82
Individual remuneration058.8241.18
Personal job satisfaction031.2568.75

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