For those of us in the northern hemisphere, September often
signals new beginnings: the start of the school and university
year; a new court term; and an uptick in work after the summer
dip. So, in that spirit, here are five subjects for the
Managing IP curriculum 2014-15.
1 Unitary Patent and UPC
– notably court rules and costs – are still
being finalised, but the
Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court are coming and are
likely to play an important role in corporate strategies in the
coming year. Indeed, it is likely that the first applications
that will become Unitary Patents are already being processed at
the EPO (pictured, right).
Next month, we host two
events (in Munich and Paris) where in-house counsel,
private practice lawyers and judges will discuss the latest
developments. But we know there is also great interest in the
new system beyond Europe and we will also hold the first European
Patent Reform Forum on both the West Coast and East Coast
of the United States this year.
Starting in October, we will publish a series of strategic
articles on different aspects of the system (prosecution,
assertion, defence, industry-specific issues etc) discussing
both what is known and highlighting the remaining areas of
uncertainty. Hopefully by the end of the year we will know a
lot more about it than we do now.
2 Trade secrets and data protection
blogged recently, there are moves around the world to
update trade secrets laws. These initiatives reflect both the
growing importance of trade secrets to today’s
businesses and also the greater ease with which they can be
We don’t know what if anything will happen with
the legislative proposals. But in the meantime there are steps
that companies need to take to protect their trade secrets and,
more broadly, commercially important data. We’ll
be publishing articles on these subjects covering the relevant
issues in IP and also in employment, data protection, unfair
competition and other areas, and looking at practical steps
that employers and employees should take.
3 Big Data
Big Data is one of the business buzz phrases of our time
and the concept will inevitably have an impact on IP. But how?
We will look at its likely impact on
different aspects of IP protection and enforcement.
For example, how (if at all) does the huge expansion of data
affect prior art searching and analytics?
How can it be made accessible? What questions and
concerns are there about the ownership and protection of big
data, particularly where it has been collected or compiled from
various sources? Will it have an impact on litigation, for
example could it play a role in survey evidence in trade mark
Not all these questions have been fully explored yet, but we
expect we will begin to see some answers during 2015.
4 Personalised medicine
If Big Data is one global business trend, then
personalised medicine is another, and one that appears to
be accelerating. If some are to be believed, it could
fundamentally reshape the life sciences industries.
And, as these industries are among the most dependent on IP
rights, that raises lots of questions for IP practitioners.
Many of these relate to patents – what aspects of
personalised medicine, if any, will be patentable? Will they
still be worth patenting? How can those patents be
enforced? Will the blockbuster drug model based on rock
solid core patents still be relevant? But there are other
issues too: what role if any will copyright and data protection
play, for example?
5 3D printing
trend is one that many readers will already be familiar with,
in principle if not in practice: 3D printing. As long ago as
2011, my colleague Emma Barraclough
reported on the potential demand for 3D printing and the
issues it would likely raise of copyright, design and even
Since then, numerous articles (such as
this) and talks (such as
this one) have tackled similar issues, even though 3D
printing has not yet become commonplace, and there have been
few contentious cases.
Could this year see that change? We think it might, as the
technology comes down in price and spreads internationally.
With that in mind, we will be on the lookout for key
developments and disputes to report and analyse.
Keep up to date
So those are our five focus issues for the next year. We
will of course be covering all other developments as they
happen too, whether in the courts, legislative bodies or
commercially. To make sure you don’t miss out on
any news and analysis, sign up
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If you’re particularly interested in commenting
on any of these topics, or would be interested in contributing
articles on them, please
email me with details. We’d also welcome
feedback on other topics you think we should be covering:
please post your comments in the usual way.