For what feels like a very long time, both news and politics have been dominated by one topic – Brexit. Regardless of which way you voted back in the 2016 EU referendum and the recent General Election, Brexit has allowed us to consider a number of national and international issues. Here are my predictions for the 10 biggest intellectual property (IP) and technology trends in 2020.
- Green Technology – An early start (September 2019) to fire season in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales have seen uncontrollable bush fires continue into the new decade, resulting in the mass evacuation of residents and tourists. Campaigning by environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, urging world leaders into taking immediate action has placed climate change firmly on the agenda. This year, the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s theme for World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April is “Innovate for a Green Future.” Expect to see a big increase in the number of patent applications for green and sustainable technology to help mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment.
- Brexit – With the UK withdrawing from the EU on 31 January, Brexit is likely to impact on IP law, practice and procedure following the expiry of the transition period on 31 December 2020. Post-Brexit, owners of EU registered trade marks, registered Community designs and Community plant varieties, will become holders of equivalent rights in the UK automatically. This sensible approach is welcomed, but various complex issues remain outstanding. For example, how will exhaustion of rights operate post-Brexit? Like it or not, Brexit is impossible to leave out of this list and will remain a talking point going into its fifth year.
- China – Inevitably, 2020 will see China remain one of the most prolific IP filing countries in the world. From the perspective of overseas businesses looking to enter the Chinese market and overcome the common road blocks of brand hijackers, it will be interesting to see the effect of China’s new bad faith trade mark laws. Will these new laws reduce the widespread, systemic problem with bad-faith trade mark applications? Time will tell but, in the meantime, prevention is better than cure. Apply for trade mark protection as early as possible in China.
- Data Protection – Cast your mind back to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in the UK on 25 May 2018. It might seem like a distant memory, but what will UK data protection laws look like post-Brexit? When the UK finally exits the EU, the EU GDPR will no longer be law in the UK. However, as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has already agreed that GDPR will be absorbed into UK law, tailoring its provisions to function alongside the UK Data Protection Act 2018. What happens if the UK leaves with no deal? In the event of “no deal”, the UK government has stated that it would permit data to flow from the UK to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). However, it has no control over the flow of data from the EEA to the UK so a negotiated agreement is now seen as the only way to ensure the UK is able to secure EU approval for the transfer of data towards the UK. In terms of data breach, if your organisation did not suffer from one in 2019, consider it to be one of the lucky few. Insurance firm Hiscox found that 61% of organisations were compromised in the past 12 months. It is therefore important to check existing contracts to ensure any data transfer agreements or data processing agreements are GDPR-compliant and that staff know what to do in the event of a data breach post-Brexit.
- Disruptive Technology – 2020 will likely be another big year for artificial intelligence (AI), automation, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain and internet of things (IoT). VR, in particular, is not just for gaming. Although it is already being used in many sectors, from entertainment to fitness, it is likely to disrupt the healthcare and retail sectors this year.
- Diversity & Inclusion – There is an increasing emphasis on diversity and inclusion at work which is likely to grow further in 2020. IP Inclusive (of which Tidman Legal is a signatory) is committed to promoting and improving equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the UK’s IP professions to ensure the IP professionals of the future encourage, embrace and sustain a more diverse workforce.
- IndyRef2 – 2020 is unlikely to see the creation of a Scottish Intellectual Property Office. However, a second independence referendum could see such an office become a reality in years to come and the validity of UK IP rights would become a real issue. Like the Brexit process, if Scotland were to leave the Union, a quick divorce would be unlikely.
- Machine Patents – Following decisions by the European Patent Office, the UK Intellectual Property Office recently rejected a patent application because the inventor was an AI machine called “DABUS” and not a natural person. Expect further heated debates on whether machines should be allowed to invent in addition to new cases that push the boundaries of the Patent Act and Rules.
- Social Media – Last summer, Victoria Beckham was sued by a photographer after posting an image of herself to her Instagram story. As celebrities continue to promote themselves through multiple social media channels, expect to see even more photographers claiming infringement of copyright in their images. Look out for passing off and false endorsement claims from the celebrities too.
- Startups – Scotland will continue to be a prime location for new businesses to grow and flourish. Cue another Skyscanner or two…
About the Author
Oliver Tidman is the Founder & Managing Director of Tidman Legal and has extensive experience in the field of intellectual property helping businesses of all sizes and sectors protect, commercialise and enforce their IP, including trade marks, designs, copyright and patents.
Based in Edinburgh, Tidman Legal is an award-winning firm of intellectual property and business law specialists for entrepreneurs, inventors, startups and SMEs.