Evalueserve: Hello Vipul, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today! Before we jump into our questions, could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
VM: No problem at all and thank you for having me on the first edition of the IP and R&D spotlight series! I have been with Evalueserve for over 15 years and currently work with the US branch of IP and R&D. My team works with F 1000 companies to create IP strategies and solve R&D challenges to enable decision-making. I love this part of my job since I get to witness trends across verticals, get the big picture of how the world is shaping, and absorb all of the best practices being employed. Before joining the IP and R&D team in the US, I was in India for 8 years working in operations. I have a degree in Engineering, a law degree from India, and currently working on getting my Master's degree in US Law.
Evalueserve: How has the IP space changed over the past year? Have you seen any changes that have surprised you?
VM: Like every other aspect in life, we have seen a boom in digitization happening in the IP and R&D space. There are more and more tools available, especially surrounding AI-based platforms. People are drawn to these tools due to budget limitations and the drive to do more. Before this year, AI tools existed and were being employed by other industries, but very few of these tools infiltrated into the IP world. Now, people are leveraging it for all kinds of things, but the importance of using human intelligence alongside these tools has not been forgotten. Tools are great at providing a broad snapshot, but the actual decision-making and research on specific areas of interest are still powered by human input. This change and shift in AI have definitely surprised me. I used to be a non-believer in AI for IP, but with more and more sophisticated tools coming out, I can now see the fantastic results that can come from the combination of tools and human intelligence.
Evalueserve: What are some current IP challenges that companies are facing?
VM: After working with various clients in different roles, I see two challenges that companies are facing. The first is on the legal IP law side. We have moved into the world of machines (IoT) where your refrigerator can create custom shopping lists based on your inventory and buying patterns. All of these changes breed new software patents, but this makes it difficult for those in the IP space since it is difficult to get software patents and no one knows how the AI-related patent law will evolve (litigation). As a community, we will have to wait and watch to see how these patterns transform over the year.
The second challenge is related to the massive growth in new ideas. For example, the inclination towards sustainability technological progress (for example, the Industrial Revolution 4.0) has generated a sea of new ideas. These two worlds have collided with each other. As a result, IP teams are challenged with finding the best nuggets of IP out of the thousands that they see a week. Before this information boom, R&D managers were able to track news and RSS feeds to keep up with everything. Now, they are tasked with finding an accurate, fast, and cheap way to quickly gather information and process it. Reading blogs, reports, and case studies are not going to help them.
Evalueserve: How are IP teams adjusting to these challenges?
VM: I have found that companies are using a combination of tools and human input to tackle these challenges. I look at dividing tasks into what machines can do and then seeing how human input can fill in the gaps and give the level of detail and scrutiny that is needed in the IP field. For example, when we want to tag patent documents, we use machines to create clusters and spot patterns and then use experts to break the information into sub-levels. I imagine that this hybrid approach will become common since patent drafting is always evolving.
Evalueserve: What advice would you give to IP teams for the coming year?
VM: Eliminate the gap created in 2020!
Unlike last year, I am feeling optimistic and am continuing to maintain my planner. Last year, companies were forced to shut down, and IP teams were left fragmented. We adapted to the remote working environment and tried to minimize disruption. Innovators continued their research; however, some innovation pipelines seemed to dry up due to a lack of access to labs and the vital equipment inside of them. Right now, we need a path forward. There is a need to document and gather the innovation that happened last year and transform it into working IP.
This growing demand for IP work is a challenge that companies are trying to meet by augmenting in-house IP teams with outsourced services. We have been helping some clients sift through the ideas they accumulated last year and examine them for further persuasion. Multiple idea harvesting and interview sessions are being conducted to regain the lost time and cover-up for the potential targets we missed last year.
Evalueserve: And finally, what are you looking forward to in the near future?
VM: The last year has adversely affected many corporates. As sales decline and sources for revenue dry, companies are continuing to implement cost-cutting measures. In such circumstances, companies are relying on alternative opportunities. In addition to this change, companies are now relying on patent portfolios to protect their business and use them as a source of monetization. Non-practicing entities may spring up again with support from litigation funding firms. I also anticipate patent filings to go up as well as litigation. For example, companies who decided to switch to manufacturing COVID-related products may have inadvertently stepped over other companies’ IPs. It will be a challenging environment as more companies try to assert their IP.