Rarely a month goes by without a new report on the number of jobs that will be replaced by machines. Earlier this year, a McKinsey study suggested that 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerised.  And last year, at the Trades Union Congress, Bank of England economist Andy Haldane estimated that 15 million UK jobs could be replaced by machines. It is easy to wonder whether jobs for humans will exist at all in the future. However, it is important to analyse these predictions in an objective way. 

The notion of advancement is not unique to the 21st century. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, many countries experienced change in all aspects of life as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Scientific advances and technological innovations brought growth in agricultural and industrial production, economic expansion and changes in living conditions.

My point is that automation is not something to be feared but to be embraced. It helps to facilitate the lifeblood of human progress: innovation. Those of us lucky enough to work in the ideas business should particularly welcome technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), since it can help our industry work far more effectively. The pioneering work being done in this area by Tyron Stading and the team at Innography was one of the prime reasons why I was so keen for CPA Global to acquire the company some two years ago.

But what about the human element? Automation may enable businesses to cut costs and replace people with computers, but does this make the IP industry a less appealing place in which to carve a career?

The answer in my mind is an emphatic “no”.  Whenever we survey IP professionals, one constant issue is the ever-increasing workload associated with roles at all levels. This is hardly surprising when you consider that between 2005 and 2015 the number of patents filed increased by almost 70%. I doubt that during that decade the number of patent professionals increased at that rate. It is a similar story in trademarks. More filings also means more renewals.  Combined with a corporate desire to generate more insight into IP investment and the increased efficiencies that all businesses are trying to generate, IP professionals are busier than ever.

Technologies such as AI offer a unique opportunity – the ability to process huge quantities of data, quickly and effectively - to drive better decision making. This will give IP professionals better answers to questions such as; where is my portfolio strong and weak? Which IP offers the strongest return on investment?  What factors should drive my research and development?

This kind of insight is business transformational, and IP professionals can access it quickly and efficiently. Technology offers IP experts the chance to reduce administration and place the profession at the centre of strategic decision making. 

Automation is an opportunity. It is a chance to regain valuable time lost to increased volumes of filings and renewals; it is an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-design our roles, moving away from the traditional silo of the “IP department” to a more central and pivotal role in a business.