January 30, 2023
At the first Tech Watch workshop held in January 2020 the Observatory’s Impact of Technology Expert Group discussed six technologies: Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, 3D Printing, Nanotech and Spatial Computing. The first edition of the Tech Watch Discussion Paper was published in September 2020 and closely reflected the discussions in the first Tech Watch workshop.
After three further Tech Watch workshops, three additional technologies have been added to the Discussion Paper: Quantum Computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G/6G Mobile Networking.
The updated Discussion Paper therefore analyses nine technologies in total, identifying 13 significant points:
- the nine technologies are all rapidly evolving and have not yet reached their full potential, not least in relation to their impact on IP;
- all nine technologies will, in varying degrees and forms, have a significant impact on labour, the economy and world trade; however, the most significant impact is when the technologies successfully interact with each other;
- the technologies all have essential roles to play in reaching global sustainable development goals, such as health, industrial innovation, infrastructure, equality and justice, all of which are essential for the fundamental role of IP for sustainable development;
- with the growing importance of biodiversity protection, countering desertification and fighting climate change, the technologies’ role must be increasingly scrutinised for their positive as well as potentially negative environmental impacts;
- predictions on the application of the technologies range from potential significant improvements in humanity’s living conditions (e.g., better-quality products and services) to major threats and dystopian visions (e.g., increased inequality, unemployment, mass surveillance or collapse of the international financial sector);
- a key characteristic of all the technologies is their potential to automate processes, including in the production and marketing of goods and the setting-up and administration of governmental and commercial activity, almost all of which have a significant impact on IP;
- all the technologies raise questions about the protectability of innovation and creativity, e.g. the protectability of innovations involving AI or quantum computing applications, the protectability of files used as a basis for 3D printing; the protectability of datasets that are vital to all the technologies and their application; and the increasing importance of the protection of trade secrets;
- Some of the technologies can make IP protection more effective and provide higher-quality registration, monetisation/exploitation and documentation systems;
- all the technologies, often in combination, can be applied by IP infringers to make the production, marketing and distribution of counterfeits more effective (e.g. cheaper production by using robots, use of local 3D printing facilities avoiding custom checks, and enhancing the look of products by using augmented reality); they can also be used in new, IP-infringing ways (e.g. cybersquatting in decentralised domain name systems and copyright infringement in virtual applications) and in IP-related cyber fraud or cyberattacks (e.g. trade mark registration invoice fraud, cybersquatting, phishing attacks supported by deepfakes, or theft of trade secrets);
- consumers and internet users can easily be deceived by criminals misusing new and emerging technologies through a variety of scams and deceptive practices, including greenwashing;
- most of the technologies can be used as tools for IP enforcement: e.g. to protect the integrity of supply chains, to facilitate the identification of counterfeits, to improve investigations by law enforcement, to improve customs risk analysis and to make notice and takedown procedures more effective;
- all the technologies represent new evidential opportunities and challenges for legal systems due to their complexity and the enormous amount of data generated; and
- all the technologies have already shown themselves to be important emerging and disruptive technologies impacting businesses, the economy, the environment, government administration and the daily lives of many people, and pose potential challenges and/or opportunities for IP.
The Impact of Technology Expert Group will continue to analyse important and emerging technologies, including the metaverse, big data, open-source intelligence (OSINT), climate change mitigating technologies, nuclear analytical techniques to counter criminal infiltration into the legitimate supply chain and new developments in cybersecurity. To access the Observatory’s updated Tech Watch Discussion Paper 2023, click here.