The digital transformation has brought challenges and opportunities to all industries, the IP profession included. Several examples of this were seen during the IP-Dagen conference held in Oslo on November 9th, where IP professionals from all over Norway gathered to discuss the main theme of the conference: “Managing IP in the digital age”.

In his keynote speech, Prof. Alexander Wurzer set the tone by explaining the three main changes for the IP profession caused by the digital transformation. First, the object protected by IP has changed by becoming more digital and increasingly intangible. Secondly, the way IP is used has also changed, by focusing less on the pure protection of a product and more on collaboration on open platforms and licensing. And finally, the way companies and IP experts interact has changed.

The program also featured three outstanding Norwegian companies and their journey to become global players in each of their fields. Cognite, reMarkable and AutoStore shared their experiences with IP management and digitalization as a driver for innovation. One of the highlights was a glimpse into how digital tools can considerably improve the scope and reach of the legal department.

Thereafter, three compelling facts that underline the importance of acquiring digital skills for IP professionals were addressed:

1. Value shift to digital: Companies with digital technologies and business models have overtaken the central stage. Looking at the five most valuable companies in the S&P 500 during the past decades, we see that this list is clearly dominated by companies in the oil and gas sectors, retail companies and hardware manufacturers. But after 2005 there was a disruptive change towards the digital. Moving forward to 2018 we see that the top five companies by market value were all digital. Furthermore, looking at the share of intangible assets to tangible assets among all the S&P 500, the share of intangibles has grown steadily, and in 2018 amounted to 84% of the value. And finally, we see that the pie has grown considerably. The total market value of the S&P 500 companies more than doubled between 2005 and 2018, from 11.5 trillion USD to about 25 trillion USD.

2. Unicorns are digital: Norway has recently joined the global club of countries with unicorns, or privately owned companies that reach a market value of one billion USD. Norway counts seven unicorns so far, four of which are based on 100% digital technologies and business models. The remaining three have all strong digital components to their business.

3. The future is Digital: An example of this can be seen in the recent report by McKinsey “Norway Tomorrow” on the industries and areas of opportunity where Norway has the potential to become a global leader. In this study, one of the three pillars is digital, mainly industrial software and digital consumer platforms. And it is fair to say that digitalization also plays an important role on the other two pillars, namely energy and sustainability.

The IP Trend Survey – 2022

What about the IP profession? What are the challenges that IP managers face in the digital age? To shed light on these issues we launched the IP Trend Survey in Norway in October 2022 and presented the results at the IP-Dagen conference. The results were then compared with an international survey, The IP Trend Monitor conducted at the beginning of 2022 by Dennemeyer IP Consulting. The respondents of both surveys were mainly IP service providers, trademark and patent attorneys, in-house IP managers and law firms.

Some of the highlights from this survey are:

The most important factors for working efficiently

Having a modern IP management system and close contact with clients came up as the two most important factors for working efficiently. The Norwegian respondents ranked information on new cases much higher than the international panel. But they both concur that digitalization will change IP management to a large degree in the coming years.

Factors that will influence IP work in the coming five years

In this question the respondents were asked to rank seven alternatives in order of relevance. In Norway, the impact of technology, including digitalization and AI, and geopolitical developments came at the top. At the bottom we found pandemic related disruptions. Looking at the international results there were three main differences: Geopolitical developments were given a higher priority in Norway than internationally. The reason for this may be the fact that the international survey was conducted at the beginning of the year when the geopolitical situation was different. Secondly, we see that the promotion of sustainability was given a higher ranking in Norway. And third, the pandemic associated factors were deemed as the least important by the Norwegian respondents, which seems to indicate that the influence of the pandemic is perceived differently in other countries.

How digitalization changes jobs

In this matter, the Norwegian respondents concur with the international panel in the perception that that face-to-face meetings will be less common, as well as less travel for business, and the increase in legal and official proceedings held remotely. Respondents in both surveys share the perception that the workload will be affected to a small degree.

Types of work related to IPR that will be affected by automation and AI

Patent and trademark searching were the two activities that Norwegian respondents saw as the most affected by digitalization. For the international panel, IP portfolio management was the most affected. And on the other end, both surveys placed court pleadings and opposition actions at the bottom of the list as the activities that will be affected the least by automation and AI.

The biggest challenge facing the IP profession in today

In this open question the respondents were given the opportunity to elaborate freely on the challenges and issues facing the IP profession in Norway today. The four main factors that were addressed by the respondents as the biggest challenges were the following:

  • Digitalization: new digital tools and the evolving role of IP managers regarding digital technologies and business models.
  • Competition from abroad: foreign companies establishing branches in Norway or providing services from low-cost markets
  • Lack of IP awareness by SMEs: The strategic use of IP is not prioritized by the top management in most companies. Low focus on IP in schools and universities.
  • Outdated skills among IP professionals: Lack of sector-specific and digital expertise. Difficulty in attracting talents to the IP profession and too few EQE-qualified patent attorneys to meet the demand.

The IP Trend Survey was made in collaboration between Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) and the IP associations NIR, NIP and Fonip. The international data is from Dennemeyer’s IP Trend Monitor.

About the blogpost author:

Felipe Aguilera-Børresen is Senior IP Adviser at Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Government’s main instrument for promoting and financing innovation and exports. He has 20+ years of experience in the field of IP providing advice on intellectual property and business-driven IP strategies for startups, small and medium sized enterprises. His background is in industrial mathematics from the University of Oslo and the Universidad Javeriana, in addition to executive programs on IP strategy and innovation. He is currently on the second year of the IPBA Diploma at CEIPI. Mr. Aguilera-Børresen has been appointed in two occasions as Expert Advisor to the European Commission on the enforcement of intellectual property rights for SMEs, and he has previously served as a board member of the Licensing Executives Society (LES-Scandinavia).