The dynamics of the mobile industry fascinate me. In the past 30 years, it has developed from a fledgling, niche market into the single most globally adopted item of technology. Never has an industry come so far, so quickly. A critical part of the innovation journey has been the creation and licensing of intellectual property. As of 2012, it was estimated that some quarter of a million active patents impacted smartphones.
The original pioneers of the industry – the likes of Motorola and Ericsson – were later replaced as market leaders by Nokia. Today Samsung and Apple dominate handset sales but newcomers such as Huawei, OPPO and Viva are also growing market share, demonstrating how quickly innovation can change an industry.
In 2017, the iPhone reached its tenth birthday. At launch, the product looked completely different to every other mobile handset on the market. It pretty much redrew mobile phone design and changed the entire phone industry, leading to the decline, and sometimes demise, of other technologies, such as standalone music players and low-end digital cameras.
Innovation often seems to follow the path of revolution, followed by evolution, until another revolution takes place. The challenge for innovators in the revolutionary phase is to demonstrate the value of a new way, because people are often reluctant to embrace change.
Innovation revolution is relatively rare. Innovation evolution is far more common. On the regular occasions when I take flights, I can now download a boarding pass to my phone, whereas previously I had to print it. But at the airport the process remains the same; namely scanning my identifier to provide access. Biometric technology should mean I need nothing but an eye scan and fingerprint to access a flight; but currently neither the infrastructure – nor the public willingness – is there to facilitate this. Hence innovation evolution (from paper to app) is currently leading innovation revolution (biometrics) in this area of the aviation industry.
The challenge of evolution and revolution is one that is front of mind for me as we focus on leading the transformation of the IP industry. IP management has gone from letter to fax to email, but the processes of filings and renewals have remained fundamentally the same. In 2017, we launched apps that looked to revolutionise this process – deploying technology more effectively and providing a single environment where IP professionals can overview the filing and renewal process. Automation is dramatically cutting the time it takes to carry out these tasks globally. The challenge is to both demonstrate the value of this, and at the same time provide an effective path for organisations to migrate from the old way of working to the new. It is a challenge we look forward to fully embracing.