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By Virtuoso Legal


IP Insight: 5 Key Trends that will Shape 2022

IP Insight is a series from IP specialists Virtuoso Legal covering themes in IP. This post looks at 5 emerging trends to look out for in 2022.

Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash


By Todd Bateman and Dr Martin Douglas Hendry



Well, the past few years have brought a lot of change. Frankly, that's a bit of an understatement.
With the pandemic drawing (hopefully) to a close, 2022 looks set to offer its own set of transformations.
In this post, we'll provide a quick overview of the 5 key trends we think business leaders need to know about to stay ahead of the curve.
Without further ado - let's begin.


Let's get it out of the way.
What exactly are NFT’s?
An NFT is a unique digital token, which people are using as a means to create seemingly finite digital assets.
These are minted on existing blockchains such as Ethereum or Polygon.
Unlike other tokens (e.g. a Bitcoin) the entire premise of an NFT is that it is "non-fungible" meaning unique and non-replaceable.
In essence, this has led people to use NFTs to mint and claim ownership over unique digital assets.
Whilst there is a bubble around NFTs - the notion of digital ownership and intellectual property are on a collision course.
Various cottage industries have emerged around NFTs and the technology won't be going anywhere after the dust settles.
However, with the level of economics involved (e.g. some of the most expensive artwork sold last year were NFTs)... It is only a matter of time before this technology and law clash.
We will be keeping a close eye on this, and expect some case law to be tried sooner rather than later.

The Metaverse

The technology theme continues as we approach the "metaverse".
With Facebook’s name change to "Meta’ and their aim to lead forays into "the metaverse", 2022 will be a key year for brands stepping into the AR and VR space.
Whilst most people are fairly resistant to this (we've had enough of Zoom let alone VR meetings!)... it is likely the area will continue to develop and be a key theme this year.
In principle "the metaverse" includes:
  • a shared virtual universe accessed via virtual or augmented reality
  • transposition of digital assets across experiences (likely via NFTs)
Again, the key theme here is an emergent digital economy.
We are likely to see a host of commercial growth in areas that build and support metaverse experiences.
With that, we are also likely to see a host of legal concepts explored in relation to the area.
In terms of IP, this is likely to result in a range of licensing, branding and copyright issues being tested.
Again, we will be keeping our eyes peeled for precedent-setting cases in this area and will keep you posted.

Artificial Intelligence

Theme number 3 brings us to machine learning's increasing involvement in innovation.
Did you know that the first patent was granted to an AI actor in South Africa in 2021?
This particular AI was specifically developed in order to create new inventions and innovations. This looks set to pave the way for more grey areas in relation to the role of machine learning in the development of IP.
It is important to note that the capability of AI is exponential, and the better an AI gets at something the faster it can learn to get even better.
Practically speaking this means the progress in the coming 3 years will likely be more than we have seen in the past decade.
This will continue to disrupt industries, and encroach more on creative tasks we might not think could be automated.
As such, we can expect more AI involvement in IP creation and more grey areas between human creators and AI assistants.
Again, precedent-setting case law, legislation and regulation are likely to be on the agenda very soon.

A New Focus on Health

If there was one sector that has made a quantum leap in recent years, it's the pharmaceutical sector.
After a rapid cycle of unprecedented R+D - an entirely novel technology (mRNA vaccines) has been developed.
This achievement and technology are up there with some of humanity's greatest.
As such, we can expect some quantum leaps in the medical technology and pharmaceutical world in the coming year.
In addition to this, most people have a new attitude toward health, longevity and hygiene.
We can expect innovation in this area too as health becomes even more of a focus in people's lives.
Continued research and development as well as supporting industries will likely see continued growth in this new environment.

A New World of Work

Finally, the working world will never be the same again!
Many businesses have shifted to home working, saving significant overheads from renting office space and little drop in productivity.
It is likely that the "proof of concept" is in for many owners, who will continue to operate in a hybrid or flexible style.
This shift has had a profound impact on both cities as centres of industry, and the nature of work as a whole.
As a large percentage of the workforce vacates office space, something has to take its place.
Expect to see the transformation of city centres to further emphasise retail and entertainment, as well as cottage industries emerging that support home-working.
New concepts, brands and designs stand to gain from the opportunity presented here.

Expect the unexpected

If there is one thing that we've all learned recently, it is to expect the unexpected.
Whilst the last 2 years have only really had one key theme, the future will be defined by a range of different things that challenge the status quo.
Those who see these challenges as opportunities have a lot to gain.
If you are a business owner and are looking for help in relation to intellectual property, explore our website to learn more or contact our team:
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