Why nanotech IP rights could be big news for IoT success

Mash-Hud Iqbal, Senior Associate of intellectual property specialists Marks & Clerk, explains why IP protection is a much bigger element of IoT success than many people realise, especially when it comes to nanotechnology.

OPINION Most people understand that the Internet of things (IoT) is set to revolutionise our work and personal lives, by bringing ever more devices into an intelligent, global network. But what’s less well-known is that nanotechnology will be key to this process, by enabling a proliferation of new technologies, such as smart surfaces and the nanoparticles that will underpin next-generation devices.

In the global race to be at the forefront of these developments, it’s encouraging to see investments being made in nanotechnology hubs, and in high-spec facilities for the fabrication of optoelectronic devices. There is significant momentum building behind graphene research, for example.

Yet unlocking success in the nanotech market demands more than just ideas and investments; understanding the intellectual property (IP) aspect of the technology is critical.

Many businesses assume that IP consists simply of filing patents and trademarks, and so its wider potential is easily ignored. But there is a lot more to IP than that, as this article will explain. Developing a robust IP strategy can be critical to the success or failure of a business, especially one that deals with emerging technologies, such as nanotech.

Small tech, big questions

As with any significant innovation, nanotechnology raises important IP questions. How to classify these new technologies, for example, and whether products developed at the atomic scale meet current IP requirements, such as novelty or ‘inventive step’?

While these can be tough to answer, the fact that some branches of nanotechnology (such as graphene) are highly emergent also presents significant opportunities.

If the next generation of nanotech gurus can get the IP right, then the limited availability of ‘prior art’ in the field – pre-existing knowledge that might limit the scope of a patent in a more established industry – could allow broad monopoly protection.

This would cover not only the patentee’s business, but also valid, relevant monopolies in ancillary, non-competing industries. Such opportunities could form the basis of lucrative revenue streams from licensing, with little risk posed to the patentee’s original business.

However, the flip side of this is the potential for overlapping patents and litigation. This is why well-drafted IP is vital to protect innovations in the space. Investing in this early may bring significant rewards down the line.

What is IP really?

IP comes in many forms, ranging from the well-known – such as patents, trademarks and copyright – to the less well-known, such as know-how, database rights, and integrated circuit topography rights.

Some of these IP rights exist automatically and for free. Others will need to be registered, and the process of doing so can be complicated.

Patents probably top the IP agenda for those working in the nanotech field. They are used to protect novel devices and technologies. However, capturing and explaining the essence of what makes an invention novel – and translating that into a successful patent application – can be challenging.

And that’s not all. Formulating a world-wide filing strategy is also important. This raises key questions of its own, such as where and when to file a patent application. The answers will largely depend on each individual business, so getting good advice early is essential.

But not everything in nanotech is about what happens at atomic level. Design rights will be crucial for protecting the particular shape or appearance of devices that rely on nanotechnology. Similarly, integrated circuit topography rights could be considered in certain countries.

Marking your territory

Another key IP area is trademarks. These are widely used to help protect the identities and values of countless products, but they also define a business in the public space, giving credibility to its products and embodying its reputation.

Even high-tech products such as smartphones – which are designed and built on patents – feature trademarks that may be crucial to their success. Any technologies spurred by the rise of nanotech will similarly be defined by them in the public realm, and by the reputation that those trademarks symbolise. Protecting them will be vital.

Then there is data, the oil in the IoT machine.

Database rights are one of the lesser known forms of IP, but they can be extremely valuable. The law says they could apply if there has been a “substantial investment” in obtaining, verifying, or presenting the contents of a database.

Given the broad applications of nanotechnology in fields such as medicine and computing, protecting and exploiting the IP inherent in data could be a key consideration for businesses emerging in this space.

Internet of Business says

There is a lot to consider for businesses looking to shape the future of the nanotech and IoT industries. Getting the IP right will ensure that it is the innovators who are rewarded, rather than the imitators. If entrepreneurs and organisations build IP into their business strategies early on, they will be well placed to capitalise on the enormous potential of nanotech.

Read more: Semtech develops disposable LoRa IoT nano-tag

Read more: Swiss company ELSE raises $ 3 million to launch IoT nanosatellite


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Twitter, YouTube, Amazon and Verizon are competing for streaming rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football

It’s likely that the NFL will sign a multiyear deal.

Several tech companies are in the running to win digital streaming rights for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package.

Twitter, Amazon, YouTube and Verizon are the remaining bidders, according to multiple sources. Twitter paid $ 10 million for these digital streaming rights from the NFL in 2016; Amazon won them in 2017 for $ 50 million, with the latest renewal going for much more.

Verizon is an existing NFL partner, and already owns some mobile streaming rights for Thursday. YouTube is the only company without a prior streaming relationship with the league, though CEO Susan Wojcicki said just this week that she would “love to stream the NFL.”

It’s unclear what kind of price the NFL is looking for in 2018, thought multiple sources say the league is likely to strike a multiyear deal. The NFL just sold the television broadcast rights for Thursday Night Football to Fox Sports for $ 3.3 billion, roughly $ 660 million per year over five years, according to ESPN.

That was almost a 47 percent premium over the $ 450 million NBC and CBS paid to broadcast 10 Thursday Night Football games in 2017, though Fox is also getting rights to broadcast the NFL Draft as part of that deal, and may still get rights to an NFL playoff game.

There could be a wrinkle in the fight for 2018 digital rights, though. One source says Amazon is considering dropping its bid because of concerns over new terms in the proposed contract that could limit its viewership. It’s also unclear how long a deal would be. Bloomberg, which also reported on the proposed deal, said some partners are looking for as many as five years. The NFL could be looking for a shorter deal.

An NFL spokesperson declined to comment. Representatives for Twitter and Amazon declined to comment. YouTube and Verizon could not immediately be reached for comment.

It’s unknown what these terms are that Amazon is concerned over, though it’s highly unlikely that the NFL would do anything to actively limit the total viewership for the games — it wants as many viewers as possible.

But the league is known to divide up its rights to numerous partners, which could limit an individual partner’s reach by simply spreading the content around. Both Verizon and Fox have mobile streaming rights to games, for example, and the NFL Draft will now appear on Fox Sports, ESPN and the NFL Network.

All of this interest comes at a time when NFL’s television audience is shrinking. NFL ratings were down 13 percent in 2017, and even more during the playoffs.

And while Amazon’s digital audience for Thursday Night Football was up last year over Twitter’s the year prior, that audience is just a small fraction of what the NFL can get on TV. An early season game between the Bears and Packers last season drew an average of 373,000 viewers on Amazon, for example. The same game had a TV audience of 14.6 million people.

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Voters shoot down human rights committee proposal at Apple shareholders meeting

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A proposal to create an Apple human rights committee was defeated in voting during Tuesday’s shareholders meeting, AppleInsider can confirm.
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Fox didn’t overpay for its new NFL rights, says Fox exec Peter Rice

“You either have the most-watched content on television, or you don’t have it.”

Fox is spending a reported $ 3.3 billion for NFL football rights for Thursday night over the next five years. And while NFL ratings are declining, Fox is paying some 30 percent more per game for the rights.

Is it overpaying?

“I don’t think so,” Fox Networks CEO Peter Rice said at the Code Media conference today in California. “Any time you go to an auction, somebody wins, and everybody who loses says that the winner overpaid.”

But something is different this time, CNBC’s Julia Boorstin prodded — ratings are down, notably for the Thursday night games that Fox acquired the rights to. How does that make sense?

“You either have the most-watched content on television, or you don’t have it,” Rice said.

Fox has been spending big bucks for NFL games since 1993, Rice noted, adding that revenue from those games has helped fuel many of Fox’s businesses since — such as FX and other newer television networks — and could continue to fuel new ones in the future.

Rice also said:

  • He doesn’t know which company he’ll go to if Disney successfully buys 21st Century Fox, where he’s president.
  • Hulu — partly owned by Fox, and where Rice is on the board — has added more subscribers in the U.S. than Netflix in the last two quarters. Rice thinks it’ll have 20 million subs by the time the Disney deal closes.
  • Hulu’s over-the-top pay TV service, for Fox at least, is the fastest growing. Some subscribers are “cord nevers” who are signing up for pay TV, others are attracted to its lower price than cable. For the last quarter, over-the-top TV replacement services have “essentially wiped out any cord cutting” for Fox.
  • The broad movement against sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace — which took down several Fox News executives and personalities — is “something that’s been sort of a wakeup call for companies” and how they address these issues. Rice says Fox has been more open and is encouraging people to come forward.

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