Intellectual property (IP) is a key consideration in the growing digital economy. “IP-intensive industries contribute over 45% to Luxembourg’s GDP, and the fastest growth rate of IP filing can be seen in digital enabling technologies such as 3D manufacturing and artificial intelligence,” says Lex Kaufhold, who heads Luxembourg’s Intellectual Property Office.
Digital technologies are indeed a game changer for traditional industries. Take smart, autonomous cars as an example. Automotive manufacturers specialised in building efficient vehicles will need advanced software, communication technologies and so on to make their cars self-driving. This is not necessarily their main field of expertise, and they might have to set up partnerships or licencing agreements with digital companies that own the IP for these technologies.
A strategic asset
Understanding how to develop large, strategic IP portfolios is therefore essential. “Take IP aspects into account from the very beginning of every development process – when you reach the end it might be too late,” Mr Kaufhold advises. “Keep your findings secret until you have spoken with competent experts and decided if, and how, your IP should be protected.”
Take IP aspects into account from the very beginning of every development process – when you reach the end it might be too late.
However, protecting digital IP can be challenging. “One much-discussed question is how far it is possible to patent software,” says Mr Kaufhold. “And to whom does the copyright of an invention made by artificial intelligence belong? For the time being, no one has the answer to such questions.”
Showing the way
The Intellectual Property Office is in charge of the framework and instruments offered in Luxembourg to help companies protect their IP. The office also helps companies find answers to complex questions. “We don’t have specialists for everything, but we know where to find them,” Mr Kaufhold points out. “Our involvement in international IP organisations also enables us to point you to experts that can at least help with finding the beginning of an answer.”
Illustration: Maison Moderne Publishing SA Photo: Jan Hanrion / Maison Moderne Publishing SA