Intellectual property in a data-driven world


In the lead up to the 2019 meetings of the WIPO Assemblies, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry reflects on the implications of big data for intellectual property (IP) policy.

How is the digital transformation fueled by advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) re-shaping the global IP landscape?

Our understanding of the impact of the digital transformation on the global IP landscape is very preliminary. However, we can observe that it is fast moving and profound and will have a significant bearing on the administration of IP systems and IP policy. Navigating the impact on IP administration is relatively straightforward. To a large extent, it involves evaluating the benefits of applying and using these technologies to improve the operational efficiency of IP offices. The harder part is working out how these technologies will affect IP policy. The IP rights we have today were mainly developed during the Industrial Revolution in response to mass production. One of the big questions we face today is whether these existing IP rights provide the incentives required to promote innovation in the digital age.

Is the classical IP system still relevant in the new data-driven economy?

For the moment, business tells us that the classical IP system is far from obsolete. Statistics show unprecedented use of the classical IP system, with growth rates far outstripping global economic performance. However, we do have to take note of the fact that advanced data-driven digital technology is clearly the dominant force in economic production and distribution within the digital economy. We also have to ask if the statistics reveal increasing use in relation to the industrial economy or if they also apply to the digital economy. How effective the classical IP system will be in addressing all of the issues arising from the data-driven technologies that dominate in the digital economy remains unclear. Undoubtedly, these will pose significant challenges for IP policymakers.

Is there any evidence that countries are starting to adapt their innovation policies to the digital economy?

Yes. A number of countries have adopted strategies that place AI at the heart of their economic strategy. Advanced digital technologies, including AI, are capable of developing new and beneficial products and services through the manipulation of data. Some of them, notably AI, improve their performance when they have access to greater quantities of data. At present, there is broad agreement that making data available is a good thing for the development of useful and beneficial products and services...

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