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We have opportunities, we need to maximise on those and intellectual property is no exception

By Kate Duckworth

We have opportunities, we need to maximise on those and intellectual property is no exception

I wish that right now I had shares in a ventilator company. I wish I had shares in a breathing mask company. I wish I had shares in a hand sanitiser company. And a toilet paper company. Although what is everyone going to do with the hoardings of toilet paper? Sales will surely drop from here. Unless COVID-19 has some sort of effect on your gastro-intestinal tract that I don’t know about, there is no need to use more toilet paper under lock-down.

In times of disaster, tragedy, emergency (you get the picture), there is opportunity. Technologists have the time and there is a need to communicate and track people, movement, behaviour, disease, viruses and bacteria differently. Some cool technology will come out of the lock-down and physical distancing. A client of mine already had an app which was initially developed for keeping caregivers and children connected – KAWAW – Know About Where and When. No doubt these sorts of technology platforms will see an uptake after we get out of lock-down and increasingly use technology to stay connected.

Some seemingly inappropriate trade marks have been filed as people seek to monopolise on COVID-19. Trade marks have been filed around the world for “COVID-19”, “physical distancing” and “social distancing”. This seems bad taste right? There are ways you can use these trade marks in good taste though – a t‑shirt with “GO AWAY COVID-19” or perhaps even "F*** YOU COVID-19". Who wouldn’t disagree with that? What about “shop normally”?

And what about the yet to be developed vaccine for COVID-19? The patent over the formula could be the most valuable patent in the world right now. The company or person who develops the vaccine is likely to be the most celebrated in the world. The person or company who files a patent for the formula might find themselves the most hated.

We face uncertainty and adversity. We worry about our jobs and businesses. We worry about toilet paper, flour and yeast. There are opportunities though, particularly intellectual property. It is easy to retrench and say now is not the time to invest in intellectual property. That couldn’t be further from the truth because new technologies and new opportunities will emerge and the economy will bounce back.

Opportunists will prey on those who sit on their hands during the vulnerable times. You could find your business and your intellectual property portfolio exposed when the economy does bounce back if you don't look after it now. A bit like my sourdough starter I am very unsuccessfully trying to cultivate. If you nourish it, it will grow, they say.

Timing is critical for intellectual property. You don't get a second chance at filing a patent once you have disclosed the invention or innovation. Trade marks are VERY hard to get back if an opportunist nicks your good idea. You don't get to wait until COVID-19 is over.

The economy will bounce back. We just don't know when. Who isn’t keen to hit the shops, cafés, bars and restaurants and travel just as soon as we can? I am prepared to do MORE than my fair share. I won't be shopping normally after lock-down.