The technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector has been one of the most prolific creators of intellectual property (IP) in recent decades. Innovations in electronic devices, software products and media platforms are completely transforming the way we live our lives. As businesses in this sector continue to develop their products they are adding to all aspects of the intellectual property universe at a rapid-fire pace, from designs to copyright to trade marks and patents.
Consultancy firm Deloitte released its annual TMT predictions report in January highlighting a number of areas where change is expected. Much of its focus is on the huge market in smartphone devices where there is constant upgrading of hardware, software and business models. This reflects where much of the IP value in the TMT sector has recently emerged from and will continue to come from for some time yet. Meanwhile other changes in the sector are also expected to take place with their own implications, some of which might surprise keen followers of technology trends.
Smartphone upgrades and design
Deloitte has predicted that there will be one billion smartphone upgrades this year which will generate around £180 billion in revenues. Smartphones are perhaps the most personal consumer device from the field of telecommunications. As such, companies are increasingly designing their device technologies around personal attributes such as fingerprint sensors, large screens, colours and branding.
These attributes are vitally important in retaining customer loyalty and any new developments will no doubt add to the frenetic world of smartphone intellectual property disputes. If a competitor can match similar characteristics, the tech giants have shown great enthusiasm for defending their intellectual property through legal means. The two largest players, Apple and Samsung, are prime examples. An IP claim by Apple that began in 2011 in the US blew up into over 50 legal cases across numerous jurisdictions in little over a year.
Another technologically exciting aspect of current smartphone development is the battery. Deloitte expects that there will be some improvement in battery life in the near future but not much in the very short term. This is because the technology to create better battery chemistry does not exist yet. In the interim, vendors are likely to adapt phones through other methods. The focus is likely to be on creating distinct processor designs, battery capacity and fast-charging capabilities as a means of remaining competitive. Any major changes of these types, or indeed to battery technology, would expect to be protected primarily through patenting and copyright. Recent press reports in the Wall Street Journal have highlighted the research of Google's X Lab solid state batteries with the aim of using this in a 'smart contact lens'. We would predict if this technology works as hoped for a rush of patent applications not just in communication devices but also medical technologies.
Contactless payment systems are attracting huge investment at the moment and contactless mobile phone payments are seeing major growth. Deloitte has predicted that major card issuers will activate NFC (near field communication) smartphone payments toward the end of 2015. NFC payments are considered beneficial for financial institutions because they provide greater security while, for consumers, the payment process is simpler and sleeker.
The implications for businesses in this field will be the need for major marketing to increase consumer awareness of the availably to pay using phones. Handset vendors will be able to differentiate their range of devices through, for example, fingerprint readers, which will enable the process of contactless payment.
Books v eReaders
In contrast to the growth of the smartphone is the surprising decline in popularity of the eReader among Millennials. Deloitte predicts that 80 per cent of all book sale revenue worldwide will be through print in 2015, even in markets with ‘high digital device perception’. If the prediction holds good, this is a significant revelation. Even in the UK where print book revenues are predicted to be slightly lower at 75 per cent, it is surprising considering 30 per cent of UK consumers own an eReader and another 50 per cent have tablets. It could be down to an ageing population, with many older readers preferring the traditional style of print. But it has also been found that 62 per cent of 16-24 year olds also prefer print because it allows them to build a book collection.
Although the most popular medium in which people want to read is clearly evident, the way in which they choose to buy books appears more uncertain. The online market for selling books is growing; 40 per cent of book sales are now generated via the internet. Yet market research has found that many people still prefer going to stores for the experience and the opportunity to browse for books. As such, the future of book retailing remains somewhat unpredictable.
Predicting the future is always a tricky activity but one thing that is certain will be the need for ongoing TMT developments to take account of the rights of IP owners and users. Developments in the TMT sector have led to huge growth in IP but they have also been a destructive force– consider files sharing websites for example. IP owners will therefore need to make sure they continue to protect their rights through ongoing registration, monitoring and enforcement, whatever changes actually occur.