Patent issues leading to unprecedented growth of IoT companies
IoT products are a major component of Industry 4.0 which brings together advances in computational power, wireless communication, AI, and data to build a vast technology infrastructure that works nearly autonomously.
The size of the IoT market is expected to grow spectacularly over the next decade. Globally, by 2020, it is expected to reach $7 trillion, and in India $9.2 billion.
Huge advances in manufacturing have allowed even small manufacturers to produce relatively sophisticated IoT products. This brings to the surface issues of patents governing IoT products and communication standards governing devices.
Patents in IoT space present opportunities
Until now most manufacturers of IoT products sought patents on physical products, the configuration of devices and their structures, output, and operation. Most IoT devices work within electronic products, healthcare products, and household products. Patenting products in which IoT devices can be used could potentially stymie the growth of the IoT industry. Thankfully examples set by some of the largest technology companies in the world including Apple, IBM, Samsung, and Qualcomm reveal there is a wide range of products that can be embedded with IoT devices.
New IoT products are regularly conceived and their function cannot be patented. Hence a tiny IoT capsule that upon being swallowed, captures and relays images from inside the human body cannot be patented. This allows companies that didn’t conceive of an IoT product to also manufacture a somewhat identical device. Functions for which IoT products can be created are numerous as well.
The manufacture of IoT products remains a frontier. Already such products are commonplace and growing in sophistication. Startups are designing novel IoT products that can be embedded with IoT devices. As there is no patent infrastructure governing what kind of product can become an IoT, there is tremendous scope for companies to design IoT products. The technologies and standards that allow IoT devices to communicate are difficult to patent as well.
Patenting Intellectual Property behind IoT devices
Several Indian manufacturers of IoT products are growing larger supported by a patent infrastructure that is loosely defined enough to allow different technologies and standards to work side-by-side.
Such technologies and standards work side-by-side in the following way. A smart home has IoT enabled products that manage lighting, entertainment, security, climate, appliances, power consumption, pool temperature, and much more. Each IoT product may be manufactured by different manufacturers that hold patents on components they have created. Patents govern how the IoT products used in smart homes, work and communicate with IoT products designed by different manufacturers. However, because the IoT patent ecosystem isn’t defined, new companies can take advantage of communication standards they haven’t created. Hence a startup may create an IoT product for home automation that works hand-in-hand with other patented products.
While the potential of IoT is vast, a clearer picture of how IoT products will be used in the future needs to emerge. It is unclear today how to draft a patent framework that allows seamless communication between IoT devices manufactured by different companies adhering to different standards.
The lack of a patent infrastructure and vast scope of IoT mean companies in this space can continue to create new kinds of IoT products and take advantage of standards they haven’t created. For now, the patent infrastructure in the IoT space remains open enough to not hamper the growth of the industry so players can grow larger and more numerous.
This news was previously published on: https://cio.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/internet-of-things/patent-issues-leading-to-unprecedented-growth-of-iot-companies/70877591
Sudipto writes technical contents periodically and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He’s an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He’s got a B.Tech in Electronics and Instrumentation engineering.