The Mathys & Squire patent, trade mark and design attorneys have been crystal ball gazing! Here are their IP trends to look out for in 2019...
Green-tech innovations are taking an increasing role in the world of IP.
Since David Attenborough highlighted the devastating effects of plastics on our environment, consumers are much more concerned with waste management. Fortunately, an outstanding amount of research and innovation has already been undertaken to face this problem head on. 2018 saw some exciting breakthroughs in the area of recycling. Companies such as Parkside Flexibles have produced compostable, flexible food packaging. We also saw research from University of Portsmouth and the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on genetically engineered enzymes which can digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET). As the war on plastic continues, we can expect further research and therefore new innovations in the field of recycling to emerge in 2019.
AI, Autonomous Vehicles and Blockchain
2018 saw an increasing amount of press coverage surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous or driverless vehicles. With the Government’s announcement at the end of 2018 that people in London and Edinburgh are set to be the first to trial self-driving vehicle services, we predict that 2019 won’t disappoint and will continue with this upward trend. The business secretary announced that “self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we move goods and people around the UK, and that autonomous vehicles and their technology will not only revolutionise how we travel, it will open up and improve transport services for those who struggle to access both private and public transport. The UK is building on its automotive heritage and strengths to develop the new vehicles and technologies and from 2021 the public will get to experience the future for themselves”.
With such advances in innovation in these areas, as part of our daily work as patent attorneys we can expect to see more and more patent applications relating to AI and autonomous vehicles crossing our desks. It is encouraging, therefore, that the European Patent Office (EPO) appear to be taking a pragmatic approach to assessing AI inventions (click to read more here).
Connected with this, blockchain-related technologies are also garnering a lot of press attention. Although the UK seems to be lagging behind its competitors in terms of protecting innovations in this area (see previous article here), perhaps we will see things change in 2019. With blockchain-related technologies finding applications in all walks of life, from sectors as diverse as medical records, food tracking, drug tagging, and even autonomous vehicles (where blockchain-related technologies may be applied to ensure the credibility of information on which an autonomous vehicle may act), we can also expect to see this area growing even further in 2019.
With your average consumer now more health & environmentally conscious than ever, innovation in the food & beverage sector needs to be protected with patents and trademarks.
Vegan Foods: with veganism hitting the headlines regularly in 2018, it was difficult not to notice that this food trend has now gone mainstream! Companies such as Marks & Spencer; Ben & Jerry’s and even McDonalds have been quick to respond to consumer demands providing new vegan food options. More recently, bakery chain, Greggs, has also aligned themselves with this ever growing lifestyle choice and launched a new vegan sausage roll, just in time for veganuary. With more and more people looking to try veganism (a survey by VoucherCode survey suggesting this could be as many as 2.66 million Brits in January 2019), I would expect to see more delicious and innovative vegan products in 2019 for us all to try.
“Gut healthy” fermented foods: if you haven’t yet heard of kombucha or kefir, you soon will. These are just two of the fermented drink products which are quickly gaining popularity in both the UK and US. In 2017, the global market for kombucha alone produced $1.5 billion in sales and has been predicted to continue to increase at a growth rate of 23% over the next five years (reported by research firm Mordor Intelligence). Fermented food and drink products satisfy two growing trends for consumers i) foods that are natural; and ii) foods that provide health benefits. Fermented foods have been reported to provide a source of essential minerals and are rich in probiotic bacteria and have been suggested as beneficial for improving gut health and boosting the immune system. These products are already available in teas, juices and, for the less traditional amongst us, craft beers. However, with interest in fermented food products ever growing, we would expect to see further innovation within this field in 2019. Some companies, such as DuPont have already filed patents relating to fermented food products, and so we look forward to see what new fermented snacks will hit our supermarket shelves this year/
Sea vegetable superfoods: sea vegetables such as kelp, seaweed, and algae have been flagged as the new superfood and saw increased popularity with consumers in 2018. As more and more consumers are focussed not only on what they eat but where it comes from, sea greens are well placed for those looking to try a more plant-based diet without further damaging the environment. As seaweed is one of the fastest growing plants in the world it is considered to be a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly food source. This new trend has not gone unnoticed by food manufacturers and provides a great opportunity for new healthy food products.
Life Sciences - Deal Making
The value of mergers and acquisitions in the biotech sector in 2018 saw a 30 year high, including eight deals worth more than $1 billion. A number of such deals in 2018 involved Mathys & Squire clients – in January 2018 Sanofi announced it would be taking over haemophilia-focussed Bioverativ for $11 billion, while by May 2018 Takeda had confirmed its purchase of Shire for $62 billion, the fifth-largest biopharmaceutical M&A deal in history.
It is anticipated that 2019 is likely to be another active year for deal-making in the life sciences sector. One of the factors pointing to this prediction is that a number of large biotech companies are facing the imminent expiry of patents protecting valuable authorised products. The possibility of competition from generics and biosimilars after patent expiry can have the effect of forcing biotech companies to consider alternative revenue streams, including potential mergers. Additionally, the now divided Congress and a House of Representatives means that we are unlikely to see patent reform in the US in 2019. This may encourage inventors to reconsider biotech stocks for 2019, fuelling further investment in life sciences.