April 26 is celebrated as World Intellectual Property Day. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) uses this opportunity to increase the visibility of intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) and their role in encouraging innovation and creativity. This is certainly a worthwhile effort in an era when our societies have yet to fully embrace the concept and benefits of IP protection, even as the means of best implementing such protection must continually evolve as the technological landscape rapidly changes.
This year, World IP Day directs its attention to exploring “how innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable, turning problems into progress.” (WIPO) The intention is to look at “how the intellectual property system supports innovation by attracting investment, encouraging creators to develop their ideas, rewarding those creators, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.”
This goal largely overlaps with the aims of the International Trademark Association (INTA) and, specifically, with the objectives of INTA’s Brands and Innovation Committee (B&IC). Its mission is to examine the relationship between brands/trademarks and innovation, with a focus on how brands promote innovation and drive the economy, and how innovation impacts brands, brand owners, and trademark-related issues. The committee aims at producing policy recommendations and developing resources for INTA members to anticipate and respond to the impact of innovation on their brands, their companies, and their industries.
One of the committee’s first achievements is the development of working definitions of brand and innovation. Brand means the total identity of a product, service, organization, individual, or any item to which people relate and connect intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. Brand is a complex, multi-layered promise by the owner of a consistent level of quality, and of what will be delivered and experienced. There can be no doubt that, in accordance with the definition, a brand will change as the social context in which it exists changes.
Regarding innovation, the proposed working definition is: a change that makes a difference in any particular societal context and that alters the manner in which markets or society interact or operate.
In order to be able to trace the societal changes influenced or triggered by innovation, B&IC coordinates its work with other INTA committees such as the Emerging Issues Committee and the Designs Committee. Issues being considered include new technologies such as three-dimensional (3D) printing, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation as well as wearable computing. Additional topics will probably consist of brain-machine interfacing , virtual reality and IoT (Internet of Things). We may also need to reflect on the potential impacts of important breakthroughs in the nano field and CRISPR and gene modification technologies. It is, however, challenging to determine priorities, since these technologies are developing rapidly, constantly shifting in their prospects and possible impacts while simultaneously converging and morphing.
INTA and its members are excited about the potential of these technologies for our societies in terms of progress and change. However, we are also mindful of the need to use and introduce these technologies in responsible and sustainable ways and to ensure a high level of ethical consideration—even higher perhaps than with traditional technologies. In this sense, we should keep in mind that the force of the innovation is such that, when amplified through the power of the markets, disruption becomes a constant rather than the exception. Altogether, it is becoming abundantly clear that intellectual property is moving far out of the traditional confines of the Paris and Berne conventions and is entering into uncharted territories where ethical boundaries will become paramount.
Those of us who have trust in the potential of technology to bring positive change to our societies would not like to see innovation being perceived negatively, as is the case, for instance, for globalization. Although many of us were hopeful that globalization would be a process bringing individuals and societies closer and enabling increased interaction and collaboration, many of our fellow citizens are feeling that the consequences of the process are the opposite. It would be tragic if the power of innovation attracted and generated the same negative connotation. This is why we need to study the changes closely, understand them, and harness their dynamism so as to embrace them fluidly rather than clash against them.
Mladen Vukmir (Vukmir & Associates, LLC, Zagreb, Croatia) is the Brands and Innovations Committee, Vice-Chair at INTA.