One can gain an understanding of issues that the profession is wrestling with by reviewing the titles of the presentations from the 2016 IPIC annual meeting. Continuing Professional Development: “The Skill Set of the IP Practitioner of the Future – Where will IP be in 20 years?” Trademarks: “Trademarks in Metatags and Keywords – A summary of the Current State of the Law in Canada as Contrasted with the U.S. and Europe”, “Brand Boot Camp”, “Best Practices before the Trademark Office”. Patent Issues: “Patent Issues that Keep In-House Counsel Up at Night”, “Patentability: Dealing with Challenges in IT and Life Sciences”, “Best Practices before the Patent Office”. Online Issues: “Managing Online Content: Tips, Traps, and Tariffs for IP Practitioners”. Rights Issues: “Publicity Rights: Guidelines for Giving Clients Practical Risk Assessments”. Litigation Issues: “Remedies – Quick Results in Trademark Cases: Myth or Reality”, “Top IP Cases of the Year”, “Appellate Advocacy in Specialized Area of the Law”.
Many of the above issues I deal with on a regular basis and have written articles about over the past year. However, the presentation of “Futurist” Jeremy de Beer was of general application and may be useful to the reader. Mr. de Beer described an approach to predicting the future using a “grid”. He creates this grid by placing a first line that represents a trend that one can see today, such as automation (self driving cars, smart homes with remotely controlled appliances). One end of the line represents the present and the other end of the line represents the future, if the trend continues. He then places a second line crossing the first line at 90 degrees to create his “grid” having four quadrants. The second line represents a second trend that one can see today, such as the increasing capability of smart phones. Again, one end of the line represents the present and the other end of the line represents the future, if the trend continues. A first quadrant will predict what happens if neither trend continues, a second quadrant will predict what happens if the first trend continues and the second does not progress, a third quadrant will predict what happens if the second trend continues and the second trend does not progress, a fourth quadrant will predict what happens if both trends progress. Mr. de Beer indicates when you extrapolate what may happen some of your “predictions” (especially in the fourth quadrant) should appear to be ridiculous. If this does not occur, you are not pushing the trend far enough. Self driving cars and everyone carrying miniature computers that connect to the internet would have sounded ridiculous 20 years ago. It is not viewed as being ridiculous today.
Comment: I received some comment from Keith Sketchley that I felt should be shared. He indicated that one should beware of overly simplistic methodologies. He identified two fundamental flaw, in the futurists approach that he described as follows:
1. Trends do not continue indefinitely, in part because people change behaviours. In technical things that’s called “feedback”. For example, increasing prices of a product will be met by reduced consumption in response to prices, demand drops, suppliers lower their prices.
2. It is difficult to predict new products and services, and some predictions fall far short. For example, a professor gave a Mr. Smith a C, sneering at his idea that people would pay a premium for assured delivery timing of documents. Mr. Smith went on to start an industry, he called his company “Federal Express