As technology advances, so does the patent industry. New innovations such as blockchain—a digital ledger quickly revolutionizing data and information storage—and self-driving vehicles have opened the gates for new patents.
Two White & Case partners participated in a Q&A with China Law & Practice about companies racing to file patents for new technologies. Shamita Etienne-Cummings, Office Executive Partner of the Firm's Washington, DC, Office, and Bijal Vakil, Executive Partner of the Firm's Silicon Valley office, gave their thoughts in-depth. A few choice responses from the two partners below:
Q: What is the significance of blockchain and AI patents and what does China's lead in patent applications mean for U.S. technology companies?
A: "Blockchain and AI patents are extremely important for Chinese companies because of the wide application of blockchain and AI technologies in China's mobile payment products and services. China is surpassing the U.S. in mobile payments because nearly the entire target population in China uses WeChat pay or Alipay for daily transactions."
Q: What is the current global legal trend of blockchain technology, and what are its biggest impacts on lawyers advising these companies?
A: "Transparency in the supply chain, intellectual property rights and piracy issues that relate to blockchain technology are the two most significant areas that impact the legal landscape."
"Companies may also want to protect their brand by ensuring guaranteed ethical sourcing of goods and be assured of its fair-trade credentials. When lawyers advise these companies, a possible solution is to use blockchain technology as evidence of the authenticity and chain of custody of its goods."
Q: Is it easier to obtain software patents in the U.S. or in China?
A: "Generally, software patents are easier to obtain in China versus in the U.S. Additionally, even if granted in the U.S., software patents are more vulnerable when challenged in the U.S. court system. Accordingly, a current trend is for Chinese companies to file and obtain software patents in China first and then use PCT or the Paris Treaty to extend its Chinese software patents to the U.S."
Q: What is the future of autonomous vehicle/robotic technology? And what are some of the unprecedented challenges IP professionals and corporations will face as autonomous vehicle technology becomes a reality?
A: "Investments and research and development in autonomous vehicles are on the rise both in the U.S. and China. There are so many U.S. companies that are far ahead in this space, that the U.S. may just lead the efforts to initiate standards that become widely accepted globally (i.e., LTE or USB)."
"Companies need be prepared for possible patent cases given that AV technology is unprecedented, and consider collaborating with other companies to combat patent trolls, and ensure the Patent and Trademark offices expedite patent applications for AVs to help spur innovation."
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