Thursday, 3 November 2011

Cloud computing and IP management

Rain or Thunder?
If yesterday's news put Afro Leo on cloud 9 then it is no coincidence that today his thoughts remain in the cloud. Cloud computing that is and its effect on IP management.

Afro Leo has long thought it an opportunity for firms based in Africa to make use of their low cost base and the increasing speed and accessibility of Internet access to make themselves available for the growing IP outsourcing (or more appropriately offshoring) market. Some of his thoughts were published by MIP here.

For in house counsel, in Africa and abroad, there are considerably more options for efficient IP management. For IP attorneys, the landscape is changing - tech savvy silicon valley firms have turned the filing market on its head in the States (and that trend will spillover into other jurisdictions as registry offices go online), there is now formidable competition from non legal service providers and there is worldwide competition for certain areas of IP management, especially from India. In short he feels that whilst there is good growth in IP filings worldwide, making IP business a healthy place to be, the nature of the business is changing. The increasing attractiveness of cloud computing is likely to accelerate the changes.

Cloud computing effectively allows for greater and more efficient collaboration which means that certain aspects of IP management can be more effectively achieved. In particular cloud computing has the capacity to (increase) change in the way databases are managed and updated for the protection of worldwide IP rights. For example, provided security and liability concerns are addressed (and there is no reason why they cannot be), a company's world-wide IP portfolio can be updated and maintained directly by those who protect the portfolio locally, using a cloud based service. This also means that in-house counsel (and their internal clients) can access that database too and not be so heavily reliant one a single external counsel or firm. Cloud computing has the capacity to stress out the middlemen, especially those who just maintain data.

Collaborative IP management is not an entirely new phenomenon to the way in which IP is managed. Afro Leo is aware of at least one external service provider that has used this type of thinking to sell it services but its database has been very expensive and the reports he has received have been lukewarm eg difficulties training and co-ordinating local lawyers and overcoming a resistance to the way in which those lawyers have, for decades, done their work. These drawbacks will continue but one feels that as cloud computing catches on, as we see a new era of students come into the workplace (whose education is based on collaborative learning), as costs decrease due to fierce competition amongst cloud service providers and as forward thinking firms respond or industry demands, the shift seems inevitable.

Your thoughts, as usual are welcomed.

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