The IP management tech of the future is here

By Sam Thorley

Technology is unlocking a new level of potential benefits for law firms across the world and delivering the best IP management system on the market.

Every profession benefits from the lightning-fast pace of technological development, and intellectual property management is no different. In recent years, IP management systems have matured into services that make it easier for attorneys and their colleagues to manage their tasks with ease, but what else does IP management technology have to offer to industry professionals?

Sam Thorley is Head of Platform for Equinox, a leading provider of intellectual property management software used by IP professionals across the world. He is currently working on the future of legal tech that can help IP professionals magnify their abilities to deliver incredible results for their clients. Sam’s aim is to make it as simple as possible to manage intellectual property.

In this article, Sam considers what the best IP management system of the future will look like and highlights the key areas of technological development that IP attorneys and their colleagues can expect to benefit from in the next few years.


Everything in one place

Intellectual property professionals rely on a wide variety of services to manage the lifecycle of their cases. There are hundreds of services built to help with individual elements of the profession; there are renewals providers, specialist search services, and financial services software, not to mention the standard administrative tools we all use. As these services add up, an IP professional can be quickly swamped by dozens of tabs and applications open at the same time. IP tech providers are working on a better way to balance these services.

An intellectual property management system (IPMS) already has the power to help professionals manage their tasks and meet deadlines more easily, but there is more it can offer.

The best IP management systems of the future will see all a professional’s services accessible from a single location. No longer will you have to switch between different tabs and programs or manually upload data from one place to the next; it will all communicate automatically. This will save everyone in your team hours of time and free up resources to focus on delivering for clients.

These integrations are increasingly accessible today and combine many of the tech services you already rely on, from software as common as Microsoft Office and email to specialist renewals providers.

The benefits of integration extend beyond those working on cases, however. Financial services applications can be connected to your system to make it easier to manage client billing, with automated invoices based on the time attorneys spend on a case.

At Equinox, we’ve added more integrations to help our subscribers process their cases across multiple platforms with as little hassle as possible. We have purpose-built Microsoft Office, Outlook, and Gmail integrations allowing automated document templates and correspondence to be prepared for you when you need them. For the financial professional in your team, Equinox is linked to providers like Xero and Sage to make accounting and invoicing simpler to manage, and we’re connected to specialist systems like Billtrader that helps IP professionals manage international payments.

While these integrations are already making a huge difference to users of IP management systems, there are even more improvements on the horizon!

The next goal for integrations is to have the full lifecycle of the IP management process manageable from a single system. While your firm might rely on a dozen different tech services to process a case from application to renewal and beyond, the aim is to have all of these services accessible from one place. That way, you can log into an IPMS like Equinox and have every service automatically updated when you progress a task.

“The IP tech environment is quickly progressing towards integrations that encompass the full life cycle of intellectual property. IP management systems have already begun to incorporate renewals services into their systems, but at Questel we project that EP validation, translation orders, and links to business intelligence and search software are all strong candidates for integration.

“Soon, with advanced developments from providers like Equinox, intellectual property professionals will enjoy a dramatically enhanced capability to simply manage client portfolios, be they trademarks, patents, or otherwise. It’s an exciting time for IP tech, and we are already starting to see these tools come into action.”

—Felix Coxwell, Program Manager at Questel


Felix Coxwell, Questel

If you can work more efficiently, you can deliver your services more effectively to your clients. Platforms like Equinox are already making a tangible difference to the IP professionals they support, and a system with all-encompassing tech integration is going to drive the success of its users even further.


Artificial intelligence

There is a great deal of excitement around artificial intelligence. Following the success of Chat GPT, we’ve seen major tech companies like Google and Microsoft launch their own AI-powered services to compete. It’s a promising route of technological development and offers compelling opportunities in the intellectual property space.

While artificial intelligence is starting to mature and become an accessible tool for many, there is still a way to go before we can start to see it applied to intellectual property management.

The core responsibility of artificial intelligence will be to take menial tasks away from the operator. With the huge volumes of data involved in the intellectual property profession, it is hoped that AI can offer ways to organise and process data that could greatly improve its accessibility.

Additionally, some processes may be taken away from the professional to give them more time to focus on value-adding tasks. At first, this will include simple tasks and classifications, but in time could grow to automate the complex, in-depth processes that eat away at resources in every IP firm.

While artificial intelligence seeks to automate many tasks taking up your time, this will only ever augment the wealth of skill and experience of those using the software. IP tech providers, like our team at Equinox, are exploring how best to apply these advances to benefit our subscribers. When artificial intelligence is adopted in the IP space, it will be a slow trajectory starting with little steps, but in five years’ time it could have daily applications for many across our industry.


Accessing support

No matter how intelligent and sophisticated our tech becomes, we’re always going to need tech support. Ensuring that users get the support they need as soon as possible is a major priority for tech companies, and finding smart, diverse solutions is of keen interest to all of us.

The one-to-one tech support call is here to stay. At Equinox, our subscribers highly value the personal experience of having one of our support team guide the user to a solution or deliver training. Like many other firms, we are set on maintaining this capability to ensure our support is as accessible as possible. However, we’re also looking at ways to grant our subscribers more independent access.

Multi-media support documentation is the best way to give users the choice of how they access help with their tech. People want to get their information in different ways; some like to read a document while others like to watch a step-by-step video. At Equinox we are building our Help Centre to encompass a variety of support media for independent, round-the-clock access. In conjunction with our friendly Client Services team, the digital Help Centre ensures our subscribers can get the help they need anytime. This will be especially helpful if you have a minor question but don’t have the time for a phone call; you can hop into the Help Centre and find the information in a format that best works for you.

The one-to-one support experience isn’t going anywhere, but independently accessed multi-media support documentation will become increasingly prevalent, promising to provide quicker, more accessible support in the way the user wants to access it.


Security and performance

Intellectual property firms and their clients need to be absolutely confident in the security of their data. While the ever-increasing connections between digital spaces offer opportunities to make our lives easier, the potential security threats are growing in kind. Every tech company from the small start-up to major international brand is taking its security very seriously, and while the developments here are not as flashy as the likes of artificial intelligence, they remain paramount to the user’s experience.

IP firms are trusted by clients to manage their data responsibly and securely. Ensuring that the software managing and storing that data is dependable is a huge concern for all parties.

As more and more firms embrace IP management software, providers are devoting huge resources to security. Even those tech providers with a reliable track record in security are making improvements; soon all major IP tech firms will offer a formalised, accredited security qualification. This allows the user of the system to have confidence in the software they depend on, but it’s also a great selling point for the users themselves.

Increasingly, businesses and organisations that may need the services of an IP firm are pursuing their own security accreditation which may require all their tech services to attain a corresponding qualification. Adopting an IP management system that fulfils this security obligation will be a major priority for IP firms in the near future.

Up-time is another important consideration for IP professionals seeking the best IP management systems, and providers are vying to ensure their users have access to their system for as much time as possible. When your IP management system is down, it disrupts your work, and back-end tech improvements should not be overlooked.

At Equinox, we’re proud to have one of the most consistent, reliable up-time records in the industry. However, there is always further to go and we are working on the system to ensure that our subscribers can access their system as much as possible. We update our system regularly, almost once every two weeks, to deliver the most up-to-date development and security releases and ensure the system runs smoothly. We receive many questions about backing-up data from potential subscribers, and we are addressing this by bolstering and improving our backup functionality to ensure our subscribers can work confidently with Equinox.

A smooth running and dependable software system is another great selling point for our clients to take to their prospects. A combination of advanced and secure IP management functionality is key to winning new business, and in the next few years, we can expect those firms that fail to embrace IP tech to find themselves lagging behind their competitors.


Firms are already feeling the benefits of IP technology

Technology is proving an exciting prospect for the intellectual property professional.

The IP management lifecycle is becoming easier to manage for professionals across the industry. With the full process of managing a client’s portfolio accessible from one location and many tasks alleviated using artificial intelligence, IP firms can become more efficient and continue to deliver the dependable services their clients rely on.

Those clients will also enjoy an improved experience thanks to the strong performance of IP management technology, and they can have confidence in the security of firms thanks to the growing trend for accreditation.

Overall, these upcoming developments will represent an attractive selling point for the firms that embrace technology. By adopting an IP management system, IP professionals will be able to deliver more to their clients and win more business.

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