The Internet of Things: intellectual property finding itself between opportunity and new challenges
The internet of things is a neologism that has generated great interest with both business insiders and companies for much of this decade. Behind this term lies a paradigm that advocates the embedding of the internet into everyday objects. Supporters of this vision imagine a future where everything is interconnected: thanks to a wide array of communication technology, our appliances, cars, homes and even the products we buy will be able to exploit the potential of the network to interact with users in an intelligent way.
Some of the most interesting applications of this paradigm have already been introduced to the market and give us some idea of the future that awaits us.2 For example, soon we will be able to start a car or permit it to be used through a simple app, which will allow us to monitor its use. Blockchain technology will ensure secure and encrypted communication. Our vehicles will in fact become part of the global network.
According to analysts,3 the internet of things, blockchain and artificial intelligence are the three emerging technologies that will drive IT investments in 2018. Global spending is expected to reach 3.7 trillion dollars (an increase of 4.5% compared to last year).
From the point of view of protection of intellectual property, producers of these technologies will face challenges of considerable complexity. These devices are often the collaborative product of components, technologies and software made by many different companies. How to prepare an adequate protection strategy?
IBA experts4 have highlighted how the intellectual property of each component, feature and functionality of these devices can be protected. For example, the functionality of the device itself can be patented. Integrated circuits and microchips can also be patented. The software that makes the product work can be covered by copyright. The design can be properly registered. The databases with which these devices are connected can also be doubly protected: the same storage technology can be patented, just as it is possible to extend copyright to the organizational structure of the database.
The presence of an enormous amount of data collected and processed via the internet of things raises another question: whose data is this and how do you protect their privacy? By their nature, IoT devices must be able to exchange their data with those of another device. This free flow of information makes “protectionist” protection solutions unworkable. Companies should pay even greater attention to the critical issues connected to their business, developing customized strategies based on the nature of the information exchanged.
Both the data structure and their organizational topology can be protected. Connection technology, transmission protocols and security solutions adopted could also be patented.
A proper protection strategy should provide for exemplary contracts with suppliers and their users. Finally, we must not forget that all technology can be the object of reverse engineering: one should also think about the adequate protection of one’s own trade secrets.
Thanks to legal expertise, combined with engineering specialization, the professionals of Barzanò & Zanardo can help companies to estimate the impact of these innovations on their business: a careful assessment of costs and opportunities is accompanied by the choice of the most suitable technology to your needs.