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COVID-19 and the digitalization of Intellectual Property

Dr. Cornelia Peuser / June 23, 2021
COVID-19 and the digitalization of Intellectual Property

Megatrends can become a bit boring over time. Until they are not, of course. Which is usually when something unforeseen enters the picture and upends some of our expectations and predictions about a trend that has been rolling on steadily. A pandemic, for instance.

We have been hearing and talking about megatrends – of which digitalization is but one – for years. It seems to be an omnipresent topic of discussion, as are urbanization, aging societies and climate change, for that matter. In the field of IP, digitalization has been accompanied by the growing importance and expanding use of IP management systems (IPMS), e-files more generally and a movement, albeit a slow one, toward digital information exchange between IP offices and their constituents.

As we will show in this paper, digitalization has been far from a uniform trend, despite its general acknowledgment. When the severity of the Coronavirus became apparent and the crisis unfolded, digitalization as a global trend was deeply affected. We will demonstrate how the pandemic has created new digitalization pressures and exacerbated existing ones, thus accelerating and deepening an already profound evolution in IP management and the importance of IP assets as a whole.

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Finally, we will discuss the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on future developments in the sector. As various experts have put it while we were conducting research for our newest study, The Future of IP: "There is no going back now."

Pre-2020 tranquility: Setting the scene

Before 2020, the digital world seemed somewhat stable. Politically, this might not have been the case, with geopolitical tensions sharpening after the Brexit referendum and Donald  Trump's presidential election, among other things – but on the digital front, things appeared mostly calm, if moving incrementally. The oft-predicted death of the in-person business meeting had not yet materialized, and while the trips to those meetings could now be organized digitally, commuter-laden aircraft continued to zoom around the globe. If anything, air travel was booming, partly due to greater digital accessibility and the resulting price competition.

Expedia and its peers had transformed travel with respect to simplicity and convenience by taking the traditional travel agent business model online. In other industries, the main benefactors of ever-increasing data volumes becoming available, manageable and transferrable were well-known: The likes of Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook and Uber had created and utilized platform- and cloud-based business models and prospered in the meantime. While innovation did continue to happen, the overall structure of the digital giants, as we perceived them, changed much more slowly.

Digitalization along supply and value chains, as well as in everyday activities, was accepted as very much a fact of life. And yet, all was not what it seemed. Download the white paper to read more!