In the near future, emerging technologies will allow billions of everyday devices to be connected via the Internet. This increasingly popular phenomenon is referred to as the Internet of Things (“IoT”). The IoT is broadly defined as technology that allows everyday devices to (1) become “smart” and (2) communicate with other smart devices. Estimates indicate that the market for smart devices, such as wearables, will grow to $70 billion dollars in the next ten years. Like many other emerging technologies, the entrepreneurs and companies developing these applications will seek patent protection for their inventions. In turn, the current U.S. patent system will present challenges for IoT technologies.
Many of the patent issues that were prevalent for Internet Age inventions will also be of concern for IoT technology. Specifically, IoT technology raises issues concerning patentability, joint infringement and patent quality. This essay provides a brief overview of these issues and concludes that although patentability and joint infringement will present challenges for the IoT, they are not insurmountable. Further, the essay predicts that the new United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) quality initiatives will likely lead to the existence of IoT patents of a more reasonable scope than the heavily criticized Internet Age patents of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
In sum, the IoT presents tremendous potential for consumers. In addition, this emerging technology will present patent practitioners, policy-makers and scholars with the opportunity to observe, question and, if necessary, modify the patent system to promote innovation and continued growth in IoT technologies and applications.
Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law
W. Keith Robinson, Patent Law Challenges for the Internet of Things, 15 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 655 (2015)