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How IP practice is changing



James Nurton


How might your work change in the next 10 years? Or 20 years? With daily deadlines and clamorous clients, most IP practitioners probably don’t have the luxury to predict the future. But maybe that’s exactly what you should be doing

September 2015 coverIn an article just posted online (and printed as the cover story in the September issue), Emma Barraclough discusses seven trends that are disrupting the IP market – from technology to globalisation via cost pressures, the changing demands on in-house counsel and the emergence of new competitors.

The article also looks at some of the new businesses that are emerging in the IP marketplace, such as IP-Portunity, A&O’s contract lawyer business Peerpoint and the virtual firm K2. And interviewees such as Katrina Burchell, Bart Lieben and Gwilym Roberts offer their own predictions about how IP practice will develop in the future.

Some of the trends will be familiar to readers: tighter budgets, desire for more flexible working, the move away from the billable hour and the need for more sophisticated advice. Others, such as the need for multi-faceted advice, the use of part- or unqualified people for certain tasks, and the integration of IP advice into general business strategy, may be more of a surprise.

IBM WatsonSome of these trends are simply the result of economic and social shifts, others come from specific legal changes such as the global growth of the Madrid Protocol, the popularity of the PTAB in the US and harmonisation in Europe (some patent practitioners turn white just at the mention of the Unitary Patent and UPC). Yet others are side-effects of changes in technology, such as electronic filing and renewal, and more rapid communication.

Taken to extremes, that begs questions such as: could a robot do your job? Would it be better than you are? CIPA, the UK’s patent attorney association, is holding a debate on exactly that topic in November (motion: "This House believes it is inevitable that, within 25 years, a patent will be filed and granted without human intervention"). In a recent article, Charles WK Gritton, chief technology officer of Hillcrest Labs, went even further, asking "Will Watson [the IBM supercomputer, pictured left] make patents obsolete?"

These may seem like abstract questions, but as fundamental challenges circle the IP business they will become increasingly real for many practitioners. And ultimately those who will be successful will embrace the changes rather than ignore them.

Thanks and good luck!

Emma BarracloughSadly, this article is Emma’s last for Managing IP, as she is leaving us to pursue new opportunities. She joined back in November 2003, initially as Asia editor based in our Hong Kong office, where her legal experience and ability to speak Chinese was invaluable in building up our coverage of the region.

From 2006 until this year, Emma was based in the UK and has had a range of roles including editing the monthly magazine, interviewing many leading IP figures, helping establish this blog and, most recently, building the popular Women in IP Network. She will be familiar to many readers not just for her clear, balanced and thoughtful writing but also as the face of many of our awards dinners and conferences. You may have seen her rushing past on her fold-up bicycle at events as far afield as Beijing and San Diego!

It’s been a great pleasure to work with Emma over the past 12 years and we will miss her on Managing IP but wish her and her family well for the future. Readers may be interested to know that we are now hiring for a reporter/deputy editor based in the UK (job description and salary will depend on qualifications and experience): details and an application form are available here. Please pass these details on to anyone who you think might be interested.

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