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The future of IP: How digitalization & automation change the patent attorney's future way of working in the IP Function

The Future of IP

Within IP, most of the patent departments today are struggling with a decrease of resources and high top-down efficiency targets. With digitalization such as process automation and diverse task management, the aimed efficiency gains can be reached. But what are exactly today’s challenges in the IP Departments? Our experience shows the most common challenges and the needed strategic approach.



Ashish Madan

Partner, CIO Advisory - Digital Strategy

KPMG AG Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft


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Most of the patent departments today are struggling with limited resources and high, top-down efficiency targets. With digitalization, such as process automation and diverse task management, the efficiency gain targets can be reached. But what exactly are today’s challenges in the IP Departments? Our experience shows the four most common challenges:

  1. Inadequate amount of resources/skills to cope with technological changes: when it comes to transformation projects, patent departments were some of the last to be provided with adequate resources to keep up with technological changes.
  2. Manual, complex processes leading to more errors: a great number of tasks and processes are still being carried out manually and are thus more prone to errors.
  3. Cost/operational excellence pressure: a strong need to reorganize and restructure their patent department, by companies striving to become market leaders for long-term efficiency gain & cost savings, in improved processes.
  4. Cumbersome communication: the collaboration mode between attorneys and operational assistants is very bureaucratic and complex.

Our strategic approach shows how these challenges can be individually analyzed and filtered. The output are five strategic enablers for accomplishing a digital transformation. These five enablers can be described as key success factors and components that are needed to ensure a smooth transformational change:

  1. Integration of flexible & agile technologies: integration of all currently existing solutions into one cloud-based solution via a holistic integration of data, documents and workflows to automate transactional activities.
  2. Improvement of digital solutions & governance: improving IT processes into digital workflows and ensuring data quality and all regulatory requirements.
  3. Strengthening digital ecosystem & partnerships: addition of new functionalities and services to reduce daily work with innovative solutions and partnerships, remaining flexible for the future service model.
  4. Promotion of the patent-partnering concept: a pragmatic, flexible and agile collaboration to make use of available resources in the most efficient way.
  5. Development of a digital mindset: digital change management for the mindset shift and to help the organization adapt to this transformational change.

How can companies implement the five enablers?

Overall, the transformational change from manual ways of working to more technology-based working processes requires a lot of gradual changes. While thinking about the implementation of these five enablers, our expertise shows that support should be provided in four different areas:

  • Technology: facilitation throughout the deployment phase, ensuring business IT alignment and successful implementation.
  • Workflows & processes: mapping as-is processes with the target state.
  • Internal & external services: creating synergies through the rationalization of vendors.
  • Behavioral change management: onboarding of all stakeholders and getting their buy-in to ensure smooth organizational and cultural change.
Digital Transformation Strategy

Fig. 1: The five enablers as key success factors for a digital transformation in IP Functions

Overview key lessons learnt:

  1. Strong business case is needed to support this digital transformation (support at the board level), i.e. focus on efficiency (cost) & effectiveness (innovation).
  2. Early adoption and selection of right cloud solution & provider.
  3. Transitional roadmap to eventually transform patent processes from manual towards machine learning, AI/automatization.
  4. Early adoption with group IT policies to shift data to the cloud.
  5. Evaluating, upfront, data quality and ownership.
  6. Early alignment of overall vision, i.e. digital patent vision.
  7. Early digital change management to foster the mindset shift and develop new capabilities.

What can companies do to prepare for the change?

Companies need to ensure that people are able to understand the benefits and improvements of the new working style, which needs the appropriate time for preparation and implementation, training models and education change in order to address AI and automation. It is known that our generation grew up with “emotional intelligence”. The next generation is required to have an “AQ” – an adaptability quotient; an ability to learn fast and change as new technologies develop. The role of HR becomes more strategic and the business models, roles and workflow processes are changing with technology. It is time to rethink which skills and competencies are needed for the future, and how to embark on large-scale training programs. Only when reaching a positive mindset change for all parties and stakeholders involved, a successful new digital way of working can be achieved.   

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