BEST IN CLASS
EDITOR’S NOTE STRAP
WIPR Leaders 2020 3 WIPR Leaders 2020 3
Welcome to WIPR Leaders 2020, the premier guide to the
best IP lawyers across the globe. This year, we've collated
the leading patent, trademark and copyright lawyers into a
single volume, and noted their expertise in letters (p, t and
c respectively) next to their names.
The past year was marked by changes that have stretched,
tugged and tested the definitions of IP. What an IP lawyer
is and how we measure his or her value, has also been
under scrutiny. Much of this can be laid at the door of
technology—in particular, artificial intelligence (AI),
which cemented itself as a permanent conversation topic
Its influence is mentioned so frequently that it has become
almost passé, but let’s take stock of what AI is offering
lawyers. The benefits are the tools, often provided by
external software companies, which allow near-instant
trademark and prior art searching (including images);
drug discovery; and the easy interrogation of hundreds of
thousands of court rulings.
This instantly turns tasks that would previously have taken
many hours into a simple tap of a keyboard. What it also
allows is access to a much broader information set, and the
ability to combine this information with other intelligence,
such as mergers and acquisitions, research spending, or
patent application data.
With a computer doing the heavy lifting, IP counsel now
have access to more information than they could ever
use. What does this mean for the practice of day-to-day
lawyering? The courts and IP offices still operate much
the same way as they always did, so the nuts and bolts of
registering IP, plus advising and representing the client, are
largely the same.
The question is whether the client, who is likely to have
access to the same data sources, wants more than that.
The bar of what constitutes top-tier legal counsel has been
raised: knowing the law is no longer enough.
Those who work in the innovation economy need an
appreciation of multinational infringement, cross-sector
knowledge, and an understanding of how new technology
is changing the risks for rights owners.
Clients in some sectors (usually the most prosperous ones) also
require in-depth knowledge of non-disclosure agreements,
trade secrets and a smattering of employment law, too.
AI is even being put forward as named inventor. In
December, patent applications with an AI called Dabus
named as inventor were rejected by the European Patent
Office. The team behind the project, which they say is
designed to raise awareness of the limits posed by the IP
system, say they will appeal.
With expectations and definitions being tested it can be
hard to know what an IP lawyer will look like in ten years’
time. However, I predict that the entries in this year’s
WIPR Leaders—a collection of the world’s finest IP minds
and practitioners—offer a good idea of the skills needed to
compete in this changing industry.
We hope you enjoy reading.
Tom Phillips, editor, World IP Review