IoT has great implications on everyday life, there are many difficulties related intellectual property ownership in the IoT, particularly patenting for technological aspects
As we ring in the New Year, there will be more than billions of devices including smartphones and laptops connected to the world. The internet of things (IoT) is broadly defined as network of multiple devices that share information through cloud-based applications and act as a catalyst for rapid growth of digital businesses. IoT allows smart objects to interact and collaborate with each other.
The IoT will change the way we interact with surroundings, optimize business processes, and improve the performance of machines and redesign them for better use. From self driven cars to wearables and fitness bands, IoT has the potential to improve the outcomes and create value that can be captured by consumers and businesses. In the past years, IoT has gained significant importance owing to surge in B2B and consumer applications. While B2B applications garner more than 60% of the IoT market due to many potential benefits, the consumer applications can create significant value. As technology evolves, digitization will blur the line between technology companies and traditional companies, thus generating newer business models and transform business processes in order to realize the true potential of IoT applications. Though growing network of inter-connected devices will make life easier with relying on a network of communication devices, there is major concern about online privacy. IoT is still in evolutionary phase with business planning to adopt to improve internal processes and services, and make well-informed decisions. According to a report by CISCO, the global IoT is expected to grow from USD 665.8 billion to USD 1.7 trillion by 2020.
While IoT has great implications on everyday life, there are many difficulties related intellectual property ownership in the IoT, particularly patenting for technological aspects. As innovation in this space grows exponentially, thus leading to more patent filings as compared to other emerging technologies. There is also huge scope for patent licensing, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures in the IoT space in the future. The companies need to seek patent protection for their inventions as patent issues might be a concern for IOT technology. However, there will be challenges related to patentability issues and infringement that may pose a major challenge to the IOT ecosystem. It also depends on how companies employ these technologies that may raise numerous legal issues such as privacy and intellectual property. IoT facilitate collaborating and sharing information in a rapid pace, there are many intellectual property concerns especially patent-related challenges in the IoT ecosystem. The major challenges of the IoT ecosystem include patentability, infringement, and patent quality, etc. Businesses need to understand the patent system in order to resolve these challenges pertaining to IoT ecosystem. Some of the legal concerns relate to core technologies that form the backbone of IoT. The major challenge for firms will be to obtain patent for internet age inventions especially software that is eligible for patenting, however, the software used to carry out an abstract idea cannot be patented and can be susceptible for patentability challenges. Another concern for inventors is to enforce patent rights against potential infringers. As IoT relies heavily on communication between smart objects, the patents might be difficult to enforce on multiple infringers which is also referred as joint infringement. As the patentee can obtain patent on new methods or processes for facilitating interactions between multiple participants but it can also pose hurdle for the patented technology.
The USPTO had announced several procedures to improve the patent quality that had significant impact on the IoT technology. The law aimed at increasing patent quality and majorly focused on pre-and-post grant review and business methods. These laws pose a challenge to the patentability and scope of the IoT inventions. Inventors, policy makers, practitioners are of the view that these laws can have a severe impact on the IoT technology. To overcome the patentability challenges, patentee needs to concretely describe and claim the inventive concept of the IoT technology. They also need to draft broadest possible claims to avoid issues relating to joint infringement. Inventors need to draft claims strategically and focus on high quality IoT inventions. Opportunities relating to make improvements in the patent law can emerge as innovations in the IoT space. As IoT gathers steam and presents potential opportunities for innovation there will be several patent issues that have to be understood.
IoT allows devices to interact, collect, and share data with other devices or people. Technologies, equipment, and internet are the backbone of IoT. The data is captured through smart objects and can be transmitted through networks or stored using cloud applications. IoT technology can be deployed in various fields as there is immense potential for innovation. Businesses need to create business models or processes using IoT platform and develop novel devices that can used in innovative ways. Given the numerous advantages, a number of patent-related challenges may arise for IoT technology.
Patenting IoT Technology
As there are many controversies revolving around software patents, technologies related to the IoT ecosystem will be also be challenged on patentability grounds. While courts have been careful in granting patent to software that implement abstract ideas, patent protection of abstract ideas should be not allowed as they can prevent others from using essential concepts and would stifle innovation. Also, patent claims that simply describe an abstract idea are ineligible for patenting. The claim can be patentable only if it recites an inventive concept. A patent will be granted if it solves a technical problem or improves a technological process. Moreover, patentees need to craft their claims giving more emphasis on novel elements or embodiments that are part of their invention rather being an abstract idea. In addition to this, IoT methods can be susceptible to patentability issues.
Patent Quality and IoT
Patent quality is related to patent eligibility and patent enforcement. The courts are currently hearing issues of claims relating to non-obviousness and novelty grounds also referred as pre-grant review. Whereas, the post grant review involves reviews of patentability of one or more claims of a granted patent. In order to improve the quality, the innovators must draft broadest possible elements to withstand challenges arising out of pre-grant review or post-grant review. Alternatively, innovators can choose trade secret protection instead of patenting and can choose patent-friendly inventions.
IoT presents immense value to consumers and entrepreneurs. Additionally, the emerging technologies will help businesses to redefine the patent system in order to promote innovation and growth in IOT applications. On the flip side, IoT technology involves sharing information from one smart object to another that involve multiple parties infringing a patent. Inventors or businesses have adopted specific claim drafting techniques to avoid joint infringement issues. Patentability and joint infringement will be the major challenge for IoT technology. To overcome these challenges, businesses needs to understand the best practices for drafting specific claims for IoT. As IoT is interactive in nature, IoT technologies will be at the center of any further changes in the patent law in terms of patentability and enforcement of patent claims.