We sat down with our Chief Product Officer Jon-James Kirtland to talk about the role of automation in the industry, AI and machine learning in IP and how he - as a co-founder - imagines RightHub as a workplace.
RH: How did you get into working with IP (Intellectual Property)?
JJ: Well, it is an interesting one. I studied art, design, fashion, and photography at college. I was there for about two years. A lot of my friends were working in the city, in London. And honestly, I wanted to get a paid job because I could not really keep up with my friends financially. It was 1999 and I found a job in a newspaper called The Evening Standard – It was a position at a law firm working with CAD (computer aided design) producing technical drawings. Turns out that law firm was Marks & Clerk, one of the biggest Patent and Trademark agents in Europe. The position I applied for was doing these technical drawings for one of their big customers, Dyson, who are now a huge worldwide company. Two or three days into the job, Dyson decided to take all of their work in-house and within a few days the role was made redundant.
But I kind of made an initial impression on the guys there, and they liked me, so they offered me a job working in the post room of the legal department. And from that day onwards, I worked my way up and moved into the patent renewals and formalities team.
That grew from there, and then I studied and took the necessary exams to become a qualified Patent and Trademark administrator. After ten years or so, I changed direction and started focusing on building technology solutions to help solve some of the industry's biggest problems.
RH: How do you see the IP industry moving forward?
JJ: Personally, I think the intellectual property industry specifically has been quite slow to adopt technology. However, in the last five-ten years that has improved, and I see that the industry is moving forward now and really starting to embrace innovative tech. However, the industry is still very disparate and fragmented, and I see the adoption of newer technology helping the industry to become much more inclusive and connected. There will be more transparency, more visibility going on, and I think that will lead to more innovation.
RH: And related to that, are there any specific changes you wish to see in the IP industry?
JJ: I want to see the PTOs (Patent and Trademark offices) offer more APIs and access to their platforms. If you look at what the EPO (European Patent Office) is doing now and the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), they are working heavily on integrating through APIs and allowing third party products to connect to their systems, finally! That is something I really want to see move fast. And I think that will unlock a lot of capability and do a lot of exciting things for the industry. I am looking forward to waving goodbye to the EPO “Smart Card.”
RH: Nice. So, this is a little bit related to the PTOs as well. How do you see the future of IP management?
JJ: The management of IP is going to be a much more of an automated process, allowing IP professionals to be able to focus on the things that matter rather than the mundane tasks many are having to deal with today.
A lot of the roles within IP – managers, administrators, paralegals, etc. - their role will significantly change. There will be a lot more automation, but that brings value across the chain, and it means that the administrators actually become more powerful in their role because they will be owning those processes, making sure that they run correctly, instead of being the ones who just sit there punching in data.
RH: You're touching upon this already, but how do you see the future of data sharing in the IP industry?
JJ: You know, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a hot topic now, and I am personally focusing on that a bit and looking into how that might affect things. Clearly the way that you want to improve processes and data sharing would be through APIs, automation and machine learning, and things like this. If you look at OpenAI, ChatGPT etc. - it is incredible. Once that technology becomes more accurate there will be a lot, lot faster ways that you can do things that relate to IP management. For example, for attorneys, this can already assist in the drafting of applications or generative responses, albeit with a low level of accuracy, but it can save them many hours by helping them get the necessary content off the ground.
Because of this, we predict the number of newly filed applications is going to skyrocket, and it will be interesting to see how the PTOs and their examiners can cope with that. It is going to be incredible to see how this will all play out over the next few years.
RH: Do you see this whole AI and machine learning for online payments as well? Would this have an impact on the future of online payments in the IP industry?
JJ: Not necessarily AI or machine learning for payments specifically, but there is certainly a huge issue in the industry with the way that transactions and payments are made across the unconnected network. Every law firm and their customers have huge administrative burdens when it comes to transacting, and the docketing of those transactions.
As an example, just one Patent or Trademark, seeking protection into multiple authorities can lead to tons of individual docketing events and multi-currency invoicing activities and this contributes to the bigger issue of how data is not transposed in the most efficient way. It is bonkers, and it has been like this for years. It is my view that these pain points can be disrupted and completely removed just by adopting some of the technologies that are out there today across other industries, such as the financial industry or e-commerce industries as well.
RH: As one of the co-founders of RightHub, I am sure you had a vision of what kind of workplace RightHub should be. What were your visions about that?
JJ: Well, after working in an office for over 20 years, I wore a suit every day. So, I made a promise to myself never to put a suit back on. But no, in all seriousness, the most exciting thing is having a young, vibrant atmosphere with young, intelligent people. Since starting RightHub, it has been amazing to see all the young talent that has joined our team to help us really look at this industry in a completely different light than we ever have done before. I am really excited about what we are doing for the industry and our customers.
RH: And lastly, JJ, I want to know - what is your guilty pleasure?
JJ: Oh, there are a few, but it is Gaming. I‘ve always loved Gaming and it is something I do not think I will grow out of. When I was eight years old, I remember receiving both a SEGA Mega Drive AND a Nintendo Gameboy for Christmas, I was incredibly lucky that year! Since then, I have been hooked, and I have had every gaming console there is. My son who's eight years old himself, we like to play games, you know, PlayStation and Nintendo at the weekend. So, yes, I am 42 years old now and I think that will never leave me.
RH: Well, thank you so much, JJ.