IP is a challenge for many SME's, regardless of the industry. Establishing patents for original works, such as logos or unique statements, is not particularly straight forward and has been further complicated by the fragmentation of data resources that enable comparisons against existing patents. This places a reliance on expensive patent lawyers and not always with any guarantees of success.
As the number of existing patents grows, there is a need for more transparency and resources to help businesses understand the patents that already exist and negotiate the best way forward for themselves. Consortiums such as Ideas Matter can help, but there needs to be much more available.
One possible solution is Big Data, particularly the new algorithms used for grammar checking and correction. Their development has heralded a new age of being able to see and understand relations in information/data that were previously beyond our grasp. Now, SME’s should have the ability to query disparate data resources via a common machine learning algorithm that can compare a prospective patent application against all those that currently exist within seconds AND provide conflict or matching accuracy as well as the best patent lawyers.
The challenge now becomes working with incumbent IT and business; a familiar meeting of old and new technologies. Evidence shows that it can be done – one example is online learning in the United States. The capabilities developed there by ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs), such as Udacity (https://www.udacity.com), have resulted in automated assessment systems that could with a small leap of the imagination fulfil a similar function to allow SME’s to query patent databases cheaply and in almost real-time.
Ultimately, this is where the whole patent system needs to move. With increased globalisation and the online nature of business, we are seeing a levelling of the playing field between large Enterprises and SME’s. SME’s enjoy the same toolsets, reach and market potential as their larger competitors but unfortunately not the same deep pockets to protect their innovation.