Internet Of Things Is The Next Big Thing In Patents, And EPO Says It’s Ready For It 21/04/2017 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The European Patent Office has a “tradition of looking forwards” to anticipate patenting trends, and it sees the Internet of Things (IoT) as the next challenge, Chief Economist Yann Ménière said at 20 April OxFirst webinar on the office’s contribution to the coming world of billions of connected objects. Today’s technologies enable a computer in every home but in the IoT, there will be a computer in every object and they will all be connected, Ménière said. It will actually be an “Internet of Everything” (IoE) encompassing connections not only to objects but also to people and the environment, he said. The EPO sees a trend toward patents for sensors to collect information which is then transmitted over networks to be aggregated into big data, he said. The big data can then be exploited by intelligent analytics to provide feedback in the real world, he noted. For example, many objects will be able to collect data on people’s health, and that information will allow statistical profiling which, with artificial intelligence, will be able to detect diseases in their early stages. Data will be the main economic asset in this new environment, but for it to work in practice, several building blocks are needed, said Ménière. One is 4G/5G connectivity to enable the networks of millions of connected objects such as sensors. Cloud computing will make it possible to grab and aggregate big data in the cloud, where it can be exploited. Other IoE building blocks are artificial intelligence, personalised medicine, 3D printing and smart factories, grids and homes, he said. What these building blocks have in common is that they’re all software-driven, he said. Software plays an increasingly key role in innovation as technologies move from today’s advanced machines with standard software embedded in them to the IoE, where advanced software will be embedded in standard machines in an architecture that can manage and coordinate the machines’ functions. These developments have several implications, said Ménière. The role of software will be to process intellectual tasks that up to now have been handled by people, with robotics substituting for labour. In addition, the very nature of innovation will change: When machines are controlled by software, they will be able to innovate at the virtual level. Patent applications submitted to the EPO will increasingly rely on software, he said. Software-Related Patents Key to IoE EU law bars the patenting of computer programs and business methods, but a computer-implemented method which produces a technical effect that solves a technical problem can be patented, Ménière said. The EPO has a “predictable and rigorous practice” for dealing with such “computer implemented inventions (CII), including guidelines that are updated regularly in light of the latest case law. CII is the first concept the EPO must use heavily to address technological evolution in information and communications technologies (ICT), he said. But CII are also important in other fields, such as medical devices. The challenge for the Office is to ensure that its patent examinations of inventions in this area are homogeneous, he said. The EPO is “well-prepared” for the IoE, he said. Among other things, it recruits a highly skilled workforce and has put in place rigorous quality control. It created interdisciplinary technical divisions in which three examiners with technical expertise from various fields review each application, and it reorganised its ICT area under one management team. The office also focuses on CII training for examiners in all relevant areas, and has an “early certainty” process that allows for prior art searches within six months, patent examinations within 12 months, and opposition proceedings within 15 months. Another consideration in the IoE is standardisation, needed for interoperability and open competition between value chain components, and to facilitate rapid deployment of new technologies, said Ménière. The Office has invested for years in the quality of standard-related patents by recognising standards documentation as prior art and cooperating with a wide range of standards-development organisations to collect the documentation. Asked how the EPO will tackle the multi-invention patents needed for the IoE, Ménière said it’s “business as usual on ICT.” The patent system is elastic and can adapt, he said. The tremendous success of ICT is based on a combination of private incentives to innovate and the ability to share patents through various licensing regimes, he added. Image Credits: Wikipedia Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Dugie Standeford may be reached at email@example.com."Internet Of Things Is The Next Big Thing In Patents, And EPO Says It’s Ready For It" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.