Technology Monitoring: How New Technologies are Impacting IP Industry
Since the documentation of the first industrial patent in 1421, the definition of intellectual property (IP) has evolved. Similarly, the IP sector has seen constant transformations with the growth of technologies in various sectors. This article explains how developments in the new-age technological areas such as biotechnology and computer software have impacted the intellectual property industry.
Intellectual Property and New Technologies
Amidst the tide of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, IP architecture must adapt and respond to these dynamic developments. Similarly, a comprehensive and more updated intellectual property system is needed to protect and promote these modern technologies so that bigger leaps can be made in the right direction.
The points below mention the impact of new technologies on intellectual property, pertaining to advancement in the biotechnology and computer software sector. Furthermore, the article assesses whether IP has evolved to stay relevant to these new-age technological areas.
Impact of Biotechnology on Intellectual Property
Biotechnology refers to the use of cellular or molecular processes and/or organisms to create products and services for a wide variety of objectives such as developing new vaccines, radical medicines, efficient industrial processes, and cleaner energy sources.
In other words, biotechnology entails the discovery of new proteins in nature that can be used for therapeutic purposes. They can be replicated significantly through DNA sequencing. Therefore, the following points cover the impact of these innovations in biotech in terms of major socio-economic, political, and ethical complexities.
4 Major IP Complexities in Biotech
- From an ethical standpoint, intellectual property in the biotech sector poses a question – how can patents be extended to plants and animals, which are essentially living organisms?
- From a political perspective, the question arises pertaining to countries that host a protein with far-reaching scientific consequences. The dilemma is, they would have to make it available freely for scientific research. It would be difficult to impose this condition on nations unless they were adequately incentivized to do so.
- In terms of socio-economic impact, if patenting of plants is to be allowed, it can severely threaten the socioeconomic status of smaller farmers, cultivators, and breeders.
- In terms of determining the economic impact of biotechnological inventions, it is vital to consider that such innovations do not happen instantly. Organizations go through a multi-step scientific journey before creating anything patentable. Quite often, multiple organizations work in tandem on the same invention without the knowledge of another organization’s attempts. This results in companies hitting similar breakthroughs.
Therefore, it is possible that while an organization discovers the protein, another one sequences it first. So, the question is who should be granted the ownership of the patent – the one who discovered the protein or the sequencer?
Now, let’s discover how IP has evolved to resolve some of these challenges related to advancement in biotechnology.
How IP Has Evolved Due to Advancements in Biotechnology
1. Patenting of Plants and Animals Legalized in the US: A landmark decision by the US Supreme Court in 1980 legalized the patenting of microorganisms, paving way for the launch of the world’s first intellectual property system for life forms. The US Patent and Trademark Office extended the Supreme Court decision to include plants.
2. Discoverer of Protein to be Prioritized for Awarding Patent: With the advancements made in DNA sequencing via the Human Genome Project, cloning and sequencing DNA has become a much easier and streamlined process than it used to be. So, in recent times, protein discoverers/isolators have started to gain precedence over sequencers.
3. Patenting of Plants and Animals Still Prohibited in Europe: In Europe though, after extensive research and deliberation in this area, the World Intellectual Property Organization has decided that except for microorganisms, no plants or animals can be patented. However, the intellectual property law in this domain is still evolving, wherein decisions are made on a case-to-case basis as advancements in biotech continue to take place at a breakneck speed.
Impact of Computer Software on Intellectual Property
Today, computers are at least a million times more powerful and smarter. Keeping in sync, the capabilities of computer software have also evolved.
In the 1980s, based on the recommendations made by the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU), only copyright protection was granted to computer software. However, as computing technology evolved, it posed several issues related to IP. The points below explain that in detail.
4 Major IP Complexities in Computer Software
- The copyright protection granted to computer software protects the “expression” and not the idea behind the invention, which could then be easily replicated by a competitor.
- The user interface, especially after the entry of Apple into the PC industry, became a huge consideration in computer software. Thus, this also needed patent protection, which fell out of the purview of copyrights.
- As computers grew popular, it created a need for a comprehensive intellectual property system in the computer software industry.
- Globalization in technology has necessitated that intellectual property law remains relevant across the world to ensure fairness to inventors. This is because of the complexities in computer software patentability.
How IP has Evolved to Match Tech Advancement in Computer Software
- To protect the ideas, sequences, structure, look and feel of the software computer software have also been granted patent protection.
- To account for the globalization in technology, both domestic and international technology firms have been protected against IP violation. The US Treaty Obligations, the Berne Convention, and the Paris Convention have facilitated this protection against IP violations.
With continuous technological developments around the globe, it only becomes necessary to study their impact on the intellectual property sector. It can be concluded that the IP system has evolved worldwide to keep pace with scientific and technological advancements in emerging sectors. The transformation of IP laws is often based on precedents set by landmark courtroom verdicts.
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-The Editorial Team