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Here’s How Blockchain Works for Intellectual Property Law

Clients are demanding a reduction in overheads and increase in productivity – looking for technology and software to make its impact on IP management. Below, CPA Global’s Toni Nijm discusses the gravitas of blockchain within the intellectual property sector, raising some interesting points on the viability and time limitations of implementing this new and adaptive technology.

An explosion in IP activity in the past decade has resulted in firms spending time on administrative, non-billable tasks to meet client expectations. A CPA Global survey of almost 400 IP professionals found the key challenges facing IP law firms were business growth, improving customer service and profitability. Meeting these challenges requires time IP lawyers do not have if they continue to work manually.

An IP ledger opportunity

Blockchain enables transactions to be recorded in a decentralised ledger. The ledger records transactions between two or more parties permanently without requiring a third party to authorise the transaction. Created in 2008, Blockchain has most closely been associated with digital currencies such as Bitcoin. However, the technology has wider implications for a number of industries including IP.

Blockchain enables transactions to be recorded in a decentralised ledger. The ledger records transactions between two or more parties permanently without requiring a third party to authorise the transaction.

Blockchain remains accurate because a copy resides on not one but many computers globally. Each new block in the chain is created with a copy of the previous block attached, meaning that in every case a record is included in the next version of the Blockchain. The whole system is kept secure with military grade cryptography.

The IP law firm benefit

In the IP industry, Blockchain could be applied in a number of management scenarios to reduce time spent on administrative tasks and maintain IP record accuracy. Consider ideas generation. When tasked with protecting an inventor’s idea, law firms need to defend their client as the first person to create that IP. Blockchain has the potential to take away ownership and ideation issues by enabling individuals and companies to identify their own innovation and place it on record within a Blockchain.

A Blockchain that provides a clear and accurate ownership record of IP assets for the industry could be more effective to interrogate than current methods available to IP law firms. Any issues around who was the first to create an idea would be easily identified through the Blockchain. Licencing agreements could even be created and recoded via the Blockchain itself.

A Blockchain that provides a clear and accurate ownership record of IP assets for the industry could be more effective to interrogate than current methods available to IP law firms.

Blockchain also offers the opportunity to place an initial idea on a Blockchain and then update it, create a geographical scope and, if the same Blockchain is being used by a network of law firms globally, any could action the process of protection and update the Blockchain accordingly. This could significantly reduce complexity and encourage more companies to protect their ideas.

Long road to adoption

The benefits of Blockchain promise positive transformations for IP firms. However, the process of adopting Blockchain could be complex and will take time to action.

Early adoption of Blockchain in IP will likely mean private, company-wide Blockchains to enable innovators in different countries to collaborate more effectively. Researchers across the globe could collectively work on ideation for a company, supporting each other by adding to each other’s work via Blockchain. Efficiency improvements such as these could see the rapid adoption of the technology in corporates, and subsequently law firms. Over time IP offices around the globe may begin adopting the technology to speed up the idea protection process and enable innovators to effectively assert their ownership of IP assets.

Blockchain has the potential to significantly support the law firms that manage IP assets to create revenues from innovation. If the industry can find the means to quickly and effectively adopt the ledger, Blockchain has a potentially significant role to play for IP law firms.


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