IP firms small and large face challenges and opportunities created by ever-evolving technology. FICPI's latest survey assessed the state of play amongst firms and how FICPI initiatives can help firms further tap into the advantages that technology offers.
The IP asset management group of FICPI's Professional Excellence Commission (PEC) has completed a survey to see how IP firms worldwide cope with the increased digitalisation of their business, the first FICPI survey to examine this topic.
The "IT Readiness" survey took a look at how well prepared IP firms are to tackle the digitalisation of their workflows.
The survey addressed questions such as:
- Firm budgets reserved for IT
- Implementation of automated workflows
- Modes of communication with foreign counsel
- The use of electronic filing firms by domestic clients.
It also looked at:
Compare your firm with other FICPI members
- Which technologies will have the greatest impact on FICPI member firms' practice
- What FICPI members see as the biggest advantages and biggest disadvantages to implementing AI-based systems
- Where are the biggest technological threats and the greatest technological opportunities for members' current business models.
The results allow FICPI members to compare the state and strategy of their firm with those of others, both regional and worldwide.
The full results of the survey are available here
following the presentation of the results at FICPI's Open Forum in Vienna
Here is a summary of the highlights of the survey.
Investment in IT:
Firms typically invest less than 10% of their overall turnover in IT services, with most firms reporting investment between 3% and 5%.
Considering other answers, this leads us to opine that there is a disconnect between the survey results: individuals are enthusiastic about the use of IT, but firms are not ready or willing to invest more heavily in IT services. There may be an opportunity to present case studies showing the return on investment in the short term.
Firms are generally aware of and have implemented workflows for tasks, especially for receiving, docketing, transmitting notices from IP Offices and tasking instructions regarding incoming foreign work. What remains to be seen is the level of automation within these workflows; namely whether there is a degree of automation within the workflows to reduce the human intervention.
Cloud does not seem to have very deep penetration for tasks other than email, accounting or docketing services. Cost and security concerns are perceived as significant barriers.
Firms seem to be aware of the need to continue optimising their processes and to drive automation of them as much as possible. But this is also perceived as a challenging move. Again, cost appears to be a major barrier in addition to the complexity of the task that is perceived as creating some hesitancy.
Staff resistance to change:
The main hurdle to deploying IT more fully appears to be an inherent resistance to change within firms that concerns all kinds of staff, including attorneys. Educational programmes to highlight the advantages of IT and reduce the resistance to change would be welcomed by the respondents.
Many respondents see AI-based systems implementation as a way to gain efficiency in terms of organisation and providing IP services and to increase the safety and reliability of the services they offer.
Threats are varied, but they primarily lie in the increasing competition that is generated by the commoditisation of some IP services: respondents cited e-filing providers and start-ups using technology to provide faster, more robust and less expensive services. SME IP firms also express major concerns about whether their size is a handicap to investment in these technologies and whether they can adapt fast enough to compete. Threats also include cyberthreats (hacking and the like).
FICPI's view and involvement
FICPI's role in helping its members with technology challenges lies mostly in sharing knowledge and experience among professionals, success stories and challenges of firms that have implemented bots or AI tools. Sharing experiences with IT vendors on implementation and management of IT services is also seen as important. Guidelines would be welcome and this is probably going to be one of the next tasks for the relevant group within PEC.
FICPI should provide awareness about "state of the art" new technologies and members will hear more from FICPI on these issues moving forwards. FICPI has already organised a panel session at the Toronto Congress introducing the technologies available at that time. As the need arises, the PEC group in charge should have more regular updates to be provided to FICPI members in the future.
For SME firms, FICPI could take a lead in negotiations with vendors to seek a consortium price if enough members showed interest in a tool. PEC will look at developing this exciting possibility.
FICPI is also expected to promote standardisation of data within firms, and at the level of IP Offices.