The Covid-19 pandemic has about a new world altogether. It has a profound social impact and immense economic consequences too. These are times for cooperation to recover pre-crisis levels or even more robust. These times should also be used effectively to promote innovation. For many years, the R&D sector was neglected by the world and lacked management for managing science and technology. In the time of need now, the researchers are expected to play a lab hero’s role and develop a vaccine or disinfection technologies in weeks.
It is comforting to see how several entrepreneurial projects have emerged during this menace. One instance has come up from ‘Aenium’ (a start-up in Valladolid) that has developed a methodology called “multi-volume variable energy density”. This methodology enables the manufacture of mask filters to comply with the regulations. In this case, the initial challenge was patenting and licensing it for free without jeopardizing the business model that could have happened by accidentally disseminating some of the fundamental knowledge.
There are many examples where we see that Intellectual Property helps develop solutions that contribute to overcoming the health emergency. Still, the ultimate goal must be to define intellectual property’s role in the new world order.
How has COVID-19 impacted the IP domain
The COVID-19 hasn’t spared even the intellectual property domain, but it has not brought it to a complete halt. Still, the world of intellectual property is moving at a slower pace than in other fields.
A prolonged pandemic has heightened the intellectual property & legal services domain, just like other sectors & industries. However, the possibility of explosive growth in the IP domain is never ignored once the Covid situation ends. This is because a Post-Covid world will likely push technology companies to flourish their existing IP portfolio’s licensing to incentivize their financial stocks.
Companies holding extensive IP portfolios have significantly been affected and are trying to implement some measures minimizing the impact of a pandemic on the company’s economy. Some companies have re-shuffled their IP portfolio, intending to cut down their cost. This is achieved by reducing the cost of maintaining patents, prosecution, and its searching. To minimize the price further, IP holders also think of abandoning the patents and dropping IP acquisition ideas. It is also estimated that this pandemic will also lead to a drop in PCT filings because IP holders avoid money wastage by patenting their inventions in every nation. This will lead to selective patent fillings in some jurisdictions.
On the institutional front, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the different IP institutions like the US Patent Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), IP India office, Brazil Patent and Trademark Office (INPI), National IP Office (NIPO) in Sri Lanka, as well as US Federal courts, this includes, Supreme Court, Federal Circuits and all other the IP Offices worldwide.
Globally, several foreign patent and trademark offices have taken steps to address the impacts of lockdown on IP practitioners. These measures are taken to provide relief to the whole IP society. Various measures include extending patent prosecution deadlines of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
Impact on start-ups
In pre-COVID and post-COVID times, the reasons for patenting an invention have primarily remained the same. Patenting an invention can prove to be relatively expensive for start-ups, who question the value of IP at times. However, as the industry starts to experience COVID-related disruptions, start-ups particularly might need to make difficult decisions.
Some start-ups may find it more challenging to commercialize the inventions during this time, as commercial partners may be more challenging to find. It might not be the perfect time to launch a product into a market, or because manufacturing has somewhat stopped. Meantime, it would be a right decision to either delay the patent process or keep the idea as a secret.
Integration of Digitalization and IP in the time of COVID-19 pandemic
Digital is the new normal now. This digitalization has been presented with many opportunities and challenges as well. The critical transitions that have taken place due to this integration are
- As digital is increasingly being recognized as the new normal, many businesses have moved on to digitalizing their operations. Every business is still looking forward to its plans for a more comprehensive digital transformation.
- Several surveys show that 20% of customers intend to increase their digital banking services post-COVID-19. One of the solutions for this has been introduced by Singapore’s DBS bank. The system is known as the digital “contact-free” trade financing capabilities. It minimizes the need for physical paperwork and will further accelerate the future of offline banking.
- It has been reported that there will be a 20% rise in the year-on-year businesses undergoing digital transformation in Singapore since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This number also accounts for the record number of new companies signing up to e-commerce platforms with government support booster programs and grants.
- A recent survey conducted for Chinese companies showed that most of the companies surveyed intended to increase their digital investments by about 10-30%. Integrated delivery options and digital payments platforms such as Grab have made it feasible for street food and wet market vendors in Asia to sustain during the COVID-19 pandemic. All these are most likely to retain their use by the businesses as the advantages of data analytics and market reach that it provides users and businesses are still evident.
- Digitalization can also spur innovation as businesses are in continuous search of solutions to the current challenges posed by COVID-19. Industries find it hard to adapt because of the face-to-face nature of their products and services. It covers many services like live entertainment, traditional media, hospitality, and sports events. All these services are also forced to develop radically innovative ways of delivering services on a digital platform.
As the virus is still spreading very rapidly worldwide, it is expected that a far greater number of national IP offices will have to introduce measures to overcome the impact of the pandemic and thereby provide relief to the IP holding companies. Professionals, IP owners/holders, and practitioners seek to manage their IP portfolios diligently to identify the existing non-performing assets. IP holders are designing some clever strategies themselves, which will help them adapt to the post-pandemic scenario. To address the IP infringement concerns related to critical crisis products during a pandemic, compulsory licensing and IP pooling is becoming highly beneficial. It is also essential for capturing and protecting any virtual IP generated from Crisis Critical Products’ mass manufacturing.
With that, there is an indispensable and foremost factor to take care of Intellectual Property strategically in the ongoing Covid-19 situation. The aim is not to lose critical assets related to Intellectual property, which results from the rigorous R&D work that has been conducted for many years and can be utilized in a Post-Covid world.