Emerging IP in Robotics

Robotics and IP
The use of robotics to create robots has been prevalent for many years in a wide array of industries such as automotive manufacturing, construction, education, healthcare, and domestic settings. However, the integration of artificial intelligence and sensing technology with robotics has resulted in the development of cutting-edge autonomous robots, which have the capacity to be applied in numerous fields.

In 2025, the robotics industry is projected to reach a whopping $6.40 billion. Such astronomical growth is expected from the pharmaceutical robot sector, which could soar to a stunning $109.25 billion. With ongoing advancements in technology, the robotics market promises to be an exciting domain to observe in 2023 for potential breakthroughs in everyday living.

Robotics innovation and intellectual property

As more players enter the robotics ecosystem and as innovation focuses on more advanced robotics, companies are increasingly turning to the tools of the IP system to safeguard their interests. 

Compared to the standard industrial robot innovation of the past, robotics innovation today involves more actors, more technology fields and many more patent filings. Offensive and defensive IP strategies are becoming more commonplace.

Patent protection can be particularly important in this field, given the capital-intensive nature of R&D prior to commercialization and the need for regulatory approval. It allows companies to recoup their investment and helps them secure a competitive commercial advantage. It is particularly useful in protecting inventions that can easily be reverse engineered.

With an influx of new participants in the realm of robotics and heightened emphasis on cutting-edge robotic technology, businesses are resorting to utilizing IP system tools to protect their assets.

The current state of robotics innovation is quite distinct from the earlier standard industrial robot innovation. Today, it comprises an extensive range of technology fields and involves numerous actors with a substantial increase in the number of patent filings. Along with this, both offensive and defensive intellectual property strategies are becoming quite prevalent.

The field of R&D demands significant investment in capital, time, and resources for developing new products. Hence, patent protection plays a crucial role in this arena. A patent bestows inventors with legal rights to prevent others from producing or selling their inventions without consent. This right of exclusivity enables them to earn returns on their investments, and thus makes patents significant in this sphere.

Having a strong collection of patents allows for the potential to license and cross-license technologies. This can forge stronger business relationships, create fresh sources of profit, and even prevent legal disputes. Additionally, smaller companies can benefit from attracting crucial investments through their patents.

Figure below illustrates the drastic increase in patent applications for robotics during the 1980s, which can be traced back to the widespread automation of factories during that decade, resulting in a fourfold rise. In the mid-2000s, there was yet another significant surge in patent applications, as more sophisticated robotics technology became available.

While automotive and electronics companies still dominate the field of robotics patents, there is a rise in new players. Universities and public research organizations are holding a substantial number of patents that could be used for commercial purposes, hinting at a strong collaboration between industry and academia. The robotics innovation space witnesses a great deal of research interchange, but reports indicate that patenting is causing firms to specialize.

Patent documents are being utilized by numerous robotics companies as a source of information regarding existing technological advancements, competitor strategies, and the necessity to dispute opposing patent claims.

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