Internet of Things (IoT) and Patent System
The past years witnessed large corporates such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco pumping billion of dollars in the IoT space. The innovations in the IoT space are not restricted to watches, fitness trackers, and other wearable devices but cater to developing novel solutions related to transportation, agriculture, healthcare, communication, etc. The IoT is not confined to large corporates; there are host of startups, new-age entrepreneurs, community leaders who are developing new technologies in the IoT space. However, these new-age companies need to create demand and drive global adoption of IoT. The companies have to develop more IoT products or services in both industrial and consumer industries for IoT to thrive. For instance, many startups are working on IoT technologies such as cloud solutions and intelligent devices such as smartphones that encompasses our lives and have emerged as a big idea for tech savvy generation.
Mapping the Global Landscape
IoT is defined as a network of connected devices that contain embedded technology which enables them to communicate sense or interact with the external environment. According to a report by CISCO, the world will see 50 billion devices connected via Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, from currently 15 billion devices. Additionally, the global IoT market is projected to grow from USD 655.8 billion to USD 1.7 trillion in 2020. IoT solutions present huge opportunity and has changed the way businesses operate, thus has made life easier. IoT has helped businesses to save cost, improve business operations, form large networks, and overcome geographical boundaries. Many businesses are being automated leading to agile and efficient business processes. This has helped in increasing productivity and maximizes return on investment. Companies are harnessing the radical advantage obtained from IoT technologies to expand business across geographical locations and offer pervasive services to consumers. Despite these advantages, increasing connection of billion of devices, IoT security has emerged as a major challenge for the industry. As load of devices are connected to the internet, a minor loophole can lead to exposure of information within the network.
Another concern for the IoT technology is that the patent system that were prevalent for the internet age will raise issues related to patentability, joint infringement, and patent quality. The IoT ecosystem will encounter patent related issues that were extant in the internet age. The major concern for the IoT is overcoming intellectual property issues especially patentability. An inventor can obtain patent for any useful method, process, manufacture or composition of matter. However, they are facing numerous challenges related to patenting the internet age inventions.
The major challenge for IoT innovators is to enforce intellectual property rights against potential infringers. Since IoT technologies mostly rely on communication between two or more devices, innovators can obtain patents for newly developed technologies and have to safeguard their innovations against third parties. However, it is difficult to protect these technologies from multiple infringers, also referred to as joint infringement. The joint infringement issues involve whether infringement liability for the steps of the method claim can be split among multiple parties. However, IoT patentees can avoid these issues by adopting specific claim drafting techniques.
Due to its interactive nature, IoT technologies can lead to further development in the patent law. Also, patent quality poses a major challenge for patented IoT technology. Innovation can only be patented if it solves a technical problem or helps in improving a technological process. The innovators need to focus on patent applications and draft elements that majorly describe the IoT invention rather than being an abstract idea. The IoT technologies are susceptible for patent enforcing issues. The patentability issue can be overcoming by concretely describing the patent scope and claims of the inventive concept. Also, drafting the claims strategically can avoid joint infringement issues by third parties. Innovators should draft broadest possible claims to avoid any challenges related to patentability grounds and draft claims that are patent eligible.
Although IoT raises issues like patentability, joint infringement, and patent quality, it presents innumerable opportunities for innovators and policy makers. The inventors need to unearth novel practices to draft claims and avoid pre grant, post review and joint infringement issues. As IoT presents tremendous potential for consumers, it will help patent practitioners and policy makers to observe and improvise the patent law. Therefore, IoT technologies will present endless opportunities but may also presents changes in the patent law.
The writer is Mr.Manoj Poonia, Assistant Vice President, Effectual Knowledge Services.