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CIO Review >> Magazine >> November - 2013 issue

Bringing Intellectual Property to the General Public


Founded in 2000, INDUS TechInnovations is a Bangalore based software product company. Its flagship product, Relecura, is a patent and portfolio analysis tool that uses a knowledge discovery framework to simplify IP analysis.

We hear about the news of organizations getting acquired for their intellectual property or companies suing each other for large sums for the alleged violation of intellectual property. In these instances, the thought that comes to mind is a distant concept called intellectual property, and that we have nothing much to do with it. Someone creates it, someone else uses it, and you read the news about it. Who are the real ones involved in these news? It is every one of us. Not a day passes by without most of us getting impacted in some way by these intellectual properties. It could be the features used by you on your phone or the design of a car that got your attention. On one hand you could have got a great deal on your mobile phone, but on the other hand it might be missing your favorite feature if there was not a system to make you pay for the intellectual property created by the inventor.

It is usual to think that someone smart in a high-tech environment comes up with all of these inventions for us. The fact is that anybody from any walk of life could come up with an invention that could change the way we live in the future. Creativity associated with the human mind equips us with the tools necessary to come up new ideas at any time. Then, why does a concept that can originate from us, perhaps needed by everyone in daily life, and can impact the masses, feel foreign to most of us? Is it the phrase, "intellectual property" or IP, which makes it sound like something esoteric? Or, is it the difficulty in describing an intellectual property accurately in words, without encroaching onto someone else’s idea or IP that makes it difficult for us to feel at home with the idea?

Physical properties are easy to describe and their boundaries can be clearly defined such that they do not encroach upon the neighboring areas. When it comes to imagining intellectual property, we use words (documented for example in patents and trademarks) to draw boundaries that are often ambiguous and open to interpretation. If you do not define the boundary well when you create a new intellectual property, you run the risk of either encroaching into your neighbor's property or you leave portions of your idea unprotected. It is the framing of the boundaries of your intellectual property in precise legal language by an IP professional that sometimes makes it difficult for a lay person to comprehend it.

Inclusive Journey

Bringing everybody, who can influence or get impacted by intellectual property, closer together requires some demystification of the concept of IP. The description of the concept should be simplified and made easily understandable to a common person, the boundaries of each idea should be clearly demarcated with proper distinctions, related information should be easily accessible at any point in time, and the impact of newly created intellectual property should be measurable. As innovation has become the driving force of today's economy, it is time to make the general public aware of intellectual property and empower them with the right tools to atleast understand it, if not practice it easily.

The goal of an IP tool should not be limited to providing the details of a patent. The tools need to do more. It should decipher the language and relate it to the experience of a common person to make it effective. Making things simpler might require complex technologies in different domains but the technology itself should be transparent to the end user. While it may be logical to come up with tools for the current practitioners of IP, it is equally important to provide similar tools accessible and affordable to the larger public, to take them along in the journey. The audience for these IP tools could encompass not just IP professionals supporting the creation and usage of intellectual property, corporate leaders making highly sensitive decisions based on the potential value of an intellectual property, or researchers and developers looking for new ideas; but also students learning newer things every day, farmers looking for newer ways of improving their crop, or a mother looking for better ways of caring for her child. Everyone needs to visualize and practice intellectual property in their own context, using information accessible on their personal device. It is time different technologies including machine learning, contextual information retrieval, and advanced analytics come together to serve this need. The life of everyone gets affected by intellectual property in today’s world, and each of us has the power to come up with ideas and innovations that can influence the quality of life. Hence, we want everyone to be an active and integral part of the journey of increasing the understanding and practice of intellectual property.