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Panasonic: IP teams need to evolve for AI-centric future

Kazuhiko Ishimaru, general manager of licensing at the multinational electronics company, shares insights on IP strategies in an age of AI, IoT and big data

newEmerging technologies in the artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data fields remain a challenge for IP protection. Globally, there is divergence on how standard essential patents (SEPs) should be managed. Another challenge is figuring out how best to balance the interests of platform providers, manufacturers and service suppliers for these emerging technologies. An added layer of complexity comes from the evolving skill sets that IP professionals need to adopt in the future, explains Ishimaru, who is based in Japan.

Ishimaru says that there are two main challenges he sees for the IP protection of emerging technologies. The first is the creation of rules for the use of SEPs, especially in the field of IoT, where the role of cellular technology is considered to be extremely important. While the number of SEP cases is growing around the world, Ishimaru says that more experience needs to be accumulated, especially in FRAND calculation methods.

The second challenge arises from differences in IP strategies among three different groups of stakeholders: platform providers, material and device manufacturers, and service and content suppliers. “Platform providers want to expand the number of device manufacturers and servicers that participate in the platforms they offer,” says Ishimaru. “Therefore, these providers cannot avoid the conflict with material and device makers who want to protect their own proprietary technologies with patents.”

He adds that service providers and content suppliers have to grapple with patent protection issues, as patents have mostly been related to materials and devices. However, as service and content suppliers become integral to the industry, software patents and business model patents are expected to rise rapidly.

In terms of the emerging legal issues that IP teams will need to think about more, protecting personal information and ethics are at the top of the agenda.

“While the collection of big data is expanding, there is concern that personal information will be leaked without restriction,” says Ishimaru. The move towards data protection has been evident around the world, especially with the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe.

Specifically for AI, it will be necessary to create new regulations around AI social ethics. “Just as in areas such as DNA manipulation, AI will need new ethical regulations to properly lead to social development,” says Ishimaru.

The skill sets of IP professionals will undoubtedly change in the future to adapt to changing needs and regulations. Until now, IP teams have mainly worked on rights related to patents and trademarks, and have made efforts to improve rights acquisition and licensing expertise, says Ishimaru. However, as the effects of AI, big data, and IoT increase, expertise is sought not only in the acquisition and licensing of rights, but also in terms of contracts, big data ownership and copyright.

The people who have knowledge and experience in related fields and who then promote the business strategically will be best-placed in the era of AI, big data and IoT. “In such an era, I think that there will no longer be IP departments as they may well be absorbed by the business strategy departments,” Ishimaru predicts.

Kazuhiko Ishimaru will be speaking at the Licensing Executives Society International 2019 Annual Conference, which takes place from May 26 to 28 in Yokohama, Japan. For more information about the event, visit:

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