Digitisation in Intellectual Property


Prior to COVID-19 various intellectual property services were well on their way to digitising many services.  The increase in innovation facilitated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on the rise for a number of years.

Digitalisation is often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.  IP offices around the world have been taking a look at how to streamline services using technology to its maximum potential.

COVID-19 has accelerated this process.  Many offices have had to adapt to the changes but have taken this on board and created new and effective ways of tackling some of its mundane tasks.

The digitalisation changes have been across a full range of industries.  What may have taken some companies years to adapt to new electronic processes, has been done in record times.

Innovation continues to grow in digital businesses.  Technology firms have seen their value skyrocket.

Update on Legal Services Industry post the pandemic
We have been amazed at how quickly our firm (and other firms in NZ) and clients were able to adjust to working from home. At the time of going into lockdown we found there were around 2 weeks where everything went very quiet. We wondered whether that would carry on and then we got busier and busier. We realised that was the time it took for those we engaged with to, at record speed, get themselves all set up to work from home.

We feel that the adjustment was fast, for some it was what they had wanted for some time – to have more flexible working arrangements and to be able to work some time from home.

With the juggling of families at home, parents carrying out teaching duties of their children and managing work commitments it was a big challenge, that we have found for the most part that those we know and work with have managed to cope with. We have been lucky in NZ that we come from a small country and we are far away from the rest of the world, that we have a Prime Minister who was prepared to make a quick and fast call to close our borders and manage Covid as tightly as we can. We have had with around 24 hours’ notice mostly, gone back into several short-term lock downs but we have had minimal time in lock down compared with the rest of the world. This has not made us complacent and as a country we are vigilant and careful.

Work has continued via online media. The use of Zoom and team calls for us has become the norm. These are undertaken with our staff, clients, colleagues. We listen to webinars and podcasts. We enjoyed being part of the INTA Virtual conference and had great and effective business meetings, committee meetings, catchups colleagues and some speed meetings with colleagues we had not met before.

For us, we had embraced being able to spend some time working from home before the first Covid lockdown. To have to work from home fulltime for us was an easy transition. It has shown us how important it is to work off a good system – we use Equinox and find it fantastic. … It has also shown us that no matter what

Innovative Services
age we are that as a Practitioner you have to invest in ensuring that you have good technical/ computer skills. We have embraced social media with our marketing and have been posting almost all content via that channel.

IP Secrets and Know-how
We have been asked by several of our clients what is the difference between Confidential Information, Trade Secrets and Know-how. There is a lack of understanding in business around the differences. In our experience, these terms are used most often in the context of negotiations or in discussions in relation to collaborations, investment decisions, sale of a business, investment sales, collaboration of technology and in Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) to name a few, it is crucial that those that protect IP as well as those that purchase, and licence IP understand the differences.

Confidential Information, Trade Secrets and Know-how are very much part of the thought process in deciding whether to seek patent protection or not.

Confidential Information
Confidential Information is information you wish to keep away from general public awareness. It is something that does not appear in the public domain and would involve procedures and documents around how it is shared with third parties.

Confidentiality Agreements would be used to manage Confidential Information and they will often be for a limited time frame especially in areas of technology development, where technology moves and changes rapidly.

Trade Secrets
Trade Secrets are a type of Confidential Information. Trade Secrets are the specific information you want to keep to yourself and is usually what is fundamental to your product or service. It is what gives you your competitive edge, your commercial and economic advantage in the marketplace, i.e., the KFC recipe.  Trade Secrets could be a technique, method or manufacture, a formula, marketing information, designs, patterns, compilations of information. Trade Secrets are crucial to identify as they have a value and provide a commercial advantage to your business. It is crucial to ensure that there is documentation in place controlling who knows the Trade Secret to maintain its secrecy.

Secrecy must be maintained. It is essential that processes need to be put in place to ensure that the Trade Secret is kept secret. It is not a registered Intellectual Property right.

Trade Secrets are Confidential Information but not all Confidential information is a Trade Secret. This is not in our experience commonly understood.

Know-how is how you know to do something. It is the knowledge you personally acquire and develop. This knowledge travels with your employees and can be difficult to restrain the use of. Contractual restraints are usually employed to do this. We often find that businesses do not have appropriate clauses in their Employment agreements that make it clear as to ownership of IP that is developed in the course of one’s employment.

It is important as a business owner that you understand who holds the knowhow in your business.

About the leader

Sue Irwin Ironside
With more than 28 years of experience in commercial and intellectual property law, Sue assists clients with all aspects of trademark and branding. Also, she brings a wealth of knowledge to her clients ensuring that they achieve their goals. As a result, Sue is passionate about helping clients achieve their goals and always goes the extra mile to understand their business.

Rachel McDonald
With more than 18 years of experience, Rachel has a proven track record of providing senior level IP advice. Rachel has a wealth of knowledge in trade marks and beyond. Using this, combined with her willingness to gain a full understanding of her client’s strategic goals, she is able to provide senior level IP advice. She has worked with a number of clients across all industries which has strengthened her knowledge and skill base beyond the norm.

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