2021 IP trends to keep an eye on

In this feature by Lawyer Monthly, partners Andrew White and Chris Hamer provide their thoughts on the patent trends to look out for in 2021.

Artificial intelligence – Andrew White

As with recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) looks set to continue to be a trend for 2021. With the publication in Nature in November 2020 announcing that DeepMind’s AI “AlphaFold” will “change everything”, we are likely going to see further developments where AI is used to solve problems relevant to humanity – particular in spaces where AI is used to solve problems in the chemical and life sciences fields, and relevant IP in this area is likely going to more and more relevant as commercial applications come to fruition. Partly in recognition of this, the European Patent Office (EPO) held a Digital Conference in December 2020 on “the role of patents in an AI-driven world”, with the EPO calling AI “one of the disruptive technologies of our time” and recognising that patenting activity in this area has increased dramatically recently.

Patent trends – Chris Hamer

Plant based foods – The growth in this sector is undeniable with the market expected to reach $74.2bn by 2027. With political and social pressure to improve diets, and initiatives such as Veganuary,food manufacturers will invest millions to be able to provide innovative plant based alternatives which truly fool the consumer into thinking they are eating the real thing. Throw into the mix the fact that different countries only have access to certain raw materials and you can see just how difficult the challenge is…

Coronavirus – Much has been written about the vaccines and equipment developed over the last year, and whilst there will continue to be improvements, we expect to see an increase in digital technologies (e.g. virtual reality, network security, digital marketing apps, social media, e-commerce and videoconferencing, etc), which, in the long run, will hopefully drive productivity gains in a new business and social revolution.

Brexit – Now that the UK has officially left the EU, it will be interesting to see if UK and EU law really will diverge as some have feared, or whether the previous decades of harmonisation will generally remain for the foreseeable future.

These comments were first published in the January 2021 edition of Lawyer Monthly Magazine.