More on the perplexing future of intellectual property

The value of our information is directly proportional to our earning power

Thomas Frey //December 2, 2016//

More on the perplexing future of intellectual property

The value of our information is directly proportional to our earning power

Thomas Frey //December 2, 2016//

The value of our information is directly proportional to our earning power!

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Internet of Things – As I like to say, the Internet of Things is all about “devices talking to devices, talking trash about other devices, spreading rumors and lies about other devices.” Naturally, this leaves us with a few questions.

  1. When we own a smart refrigerator, do our insurance companies have the right to monitor our diets and feed the data into their latest actuarial tables?
  2. If we use “mood-casters” to interface with the buildings around us, can the meta-data surrounding our attitudes and temperaments be scraped, used, and repurposed by building owners and neighboring occupants?
  3. Will my IoT devices become searchable? Yes, being able to search the contents of my refrigerator while I’m at the grocery store may be convenient, but it also has the potential for being highjacked by marketing companies, headhunters, and political adversaries.
  4. Does my IoT pot have the right to call my IoT kettle black?


3D Scanning & Printing – With changes happening almost on a minute-by-minute basis, the 3D printing industry is on the verge of becoming one of the largest industries on the planet.

  1. Who owns the rights to our digitally scanned bodies? Who else can and will have access to them?
  2. Will someone who wants to buy me a pair of hyper-personalized shoes as a present have access to my foot-scans? Will this type of permission also give access to other marketing companies?
  3. When I grow older and 3D printed organs, body parts, and entire replacement bodies become available, will I be buying or licensing the replacement body parts? Can they be repossessed for lack of payment?
  4. Having doctors monitor our replacement body parts remotely may sound convenient, but who will have access to the date? And will there be an off switch?


Contour Crafting – Created as a large-scale form of 3D printing, contour crafting is now viewed as a disruptive technology poised to revamp the entire construction industry.

  1. What features in a printed house will be patentable? Printed cabinets? Printed insulation? Artistic walls? Printed solar roofs?
  2. What tools will designers use to protect unique features such as lighting and audio configurations, elevator styles, sensor networks, and the operational characteristics of appliances?


Fly, Driving, Swimming, Crawling Drones – While flying drones are constantly in the news, drones are robotic vehicles with far more capabilities than simply flying. They can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes. Future drones will be designed with a wide range of complex capabilities, are these capabilities will dramatically change our understanding of privacy, personal space, and proximity-based rights.

  1. Who owns information collected by drones, and who else will have access?
  2. Does an open window somehow mean that it’s a public place and drones can fly in? Where do property lines begin and end? Where does personal space begin and end?
  3. Will people have the right to “shoot down” or otherwise destroy unlicensed or “trespassing” drones?
  4. What are the legal privacy barriers that will protect people from drones with cameras and audio scanning capabilities as well as drones equipped with a variety of other types of sensors? Should we have a Drone Bill of Rights?


Virtual & Augmented Reality – Both VR and AR are Internet-sized opportunities on the verge of exploding around us.

  1. Do “real world” augmented reality game designers have the right to include the general public as unwitting participants in their games?
  2. Who owns the “reaction data” in VR simulations? How a person reacts to specific situations can be incredibly valuable data.
  3. Will VR experiences be patentable, copyrightable, or protectable in any way?
  4. What is the proper term for a VR creation – a video, a game, a simulation, an experience, or something else?


Artificial Intelligence – We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Microsoft even claims to have breakthrough A.I. technology for reprogramming cells back to a healthy state, and has announced they will be able to cure cancer in less than 10 years.

  1. Will AI systems replace our need for human drivers, musicians, and doctors?
  2. Can we reprogram our cells to cure most major diseases as Microsoft and others have proposed?
  3. Will we “buy” the cure or just “license” it? Can we “gift” it to others?
  4. Can an A.I. “entity” be copyrighted, trademarked, licensed, or sold?


Cryptocurrency – Currently more than 3,300 cryptocurrencies are being tracked around the world.

  1. At what point will cryptocurrencies become more stable than most national currencies? NOTE: Bitcoin is already more stable that some.
  2. Who is in charge of solving cryptocurrency-related crimes like theft, counterfeiting, or fraud?
  3. If I take out a loan in cryptocurrency, such as a house loan in Bitcoin, and the cryptocurrency collapses, is the debt still owed?
  4. If I’ve stored all my cryptocurrency on my smartphone, and I lose it, is the money recoverable?


Future Search Engines – In the grand scheme of things, search engines are still a prehistoric technology. Quantum computing will soon give us the ability to define, test, and search for a variety of new physical and digital attributes. These include attributes like smells, tastes, barometric pressure, harmonic vibration, reflectivity, textures, and specific gravity.

  1. When it comes to definable sensory creations like tastes and smells, will we soon be able to protect them with patents, trademarks, copyrights, or something else?
  2. Can other definable attributes like harmonic vibration, reflectivity, and textures also be trademarked in a form similar to “sonic branding?”
  3. How long will it be before we create “attribute scanners” to log our daily experiences in a way that will also make them searchable?
  4. When will we see an artificial nose more accurate than a bloodhound? How long before someone creates the periodic table of smells?


Final Thoughts

As we move into a globally connected world with borderless communications and borderless economies, whose authority will come into play?

Due to a lack of any true global authority, tech companies like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter have been forced to define their own code of ethics, deciding what is or isn’t fair use or original content.

In this role of them serving as quasi-governmental agencies, they have begun arbitrating digital rights issues with their own terms of service agreements that virtually no one ever reads. When the European Union ruled that people have the right to be forgotten, the terms of service agreements were altered to include that provision.

For this reason, tech companies have broad, overarching powers to decide who and what is searchable, findable and promotable. Since we see growing issues surrounding privacy, data collection, and distribution, they will also have the ability to influence, manage and even control many of the data markets moving forward.

While we will have a bright future ahead, the challenges should never be underestimated.