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Robotics and the need for IP protection

Technological advancements are occurring in almost every field. Medicine, sports, automobile, science etc has been rapidly progressing and with the passing of time and introduction of Artificial Intelligence(AI), the Robotics Industry have bloomed way beyond imagination. Robotics is a fascinating branch which has drawn interests and investments from all around the globe, and with this rapid pace of development robotics have attracted the branch of IP as well.

From a garbage can to a building machine, application for this technology never fails to amaze but at the same time it also increases the risk of exploitation and misuse by several folds. IPR has managed to extend its protection to products originating out of human intellect and to which physical protection cannot be extended upon. And, with increasing demand of the concerned robotics industry IP laws may as well be an answer. But question of protection and of which type still looms over this industry as it has not yet been commercialized and originates almost from one single idea or entity i.e of Artificial Intelligence.

Patent Law has a wide ambit under which the protection of such kind of industry can be extended to. Similarly the application of Trade Secrets to this industry is also a viable answer to all the problems.

WHICH IS BETTER FOR ROBOTICS: TRADE SECRET OR PATENTS?

Depending on the circumstances facing your business and the technology itself, a thoughtful approach might counsel in favor of patents or trade secrets, or even some combination of  both.

Innovation in robotics spans vast areas and can take any form. Starting from the basic parts and components to the final product and  including all software programming can be granted IP protection. Whether one or the other, or both types of protection make sense depends on the invention itself.

For developing companies, patents (or at least applications) may be necessary to provide value to investors, who are frequently unwilling to submit to non-disclosure agreements and may have difficulty quantifying the value of a trade secret. For companies with many or competitors, who have patent portfolios covering their innovations, a robust defensive or offensive patent portfolio may be a good strategy to leverage against competitive threats.

A trade secret may also protect more than what is implemented in the robot, it may protect information about what was not done; patents do not necessarily reach such “negative know-how.” Knowing that many more-obvious approaches were not the best solution to the problem-at-hand can have great value.

Patents require to make public the procedure and the detailed list of process and technology involved in the particular invention, which in a way enables others to make use of such to carry on the same or related kind of invention. Whereas on the other hand Trade Secrets can help keep competitors behind.

ipThe remedies available for trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement include both monetary and injunctive relief. In patent cases the successful plaintiff can be awarded a reasonable royalty and/or lost profits, but cannot disgorge the infringer’s profits. Unlike patent cases, a trade secret judgment can award the plaintiff its losses as well as the defendant’s unjust enrichment. Both types of protection also permit additional monetary relief for a defendant’s willful or malicious conduct.

Hence, it ultimately comes down to the inventors on which type of protection they need to acquire so as to reap maximum benefit out of it and keep competitors at bay and the consumers happy.

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