How AI and 3D Printing is changing IP Law

Timo Pitkänen reveals the different technologies impacting the patent world, as well if there is a ‘foolproof’ way of ensuring that a sufficient novelty search has been conducted, and how to pick a suitable IP strategy.


What challenges do you foresee in the patent world, in regard to new technology developments?

I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to change the way how searches, especially patent searches, are made. Although AI as such is not a new thing, since it has been researched for decades, it has showed its power during this decade. AI has influence on all areas of the economy, so naturally it also affects the patent world.  AI can decrease time spent on searches and can even give a more accurate search result. In fact, there are companies who provide AI based tools to make patent searches.

How to adapt search routines to work with AI may be challenging from the view of a patent attorney. Traditionally the patent attorney may have an insight for certain technologies and how to do searches. AI is a new tool for searches and at least at the beginning it is not so familiar how to use it. However, after the AI tools become more familiar, their benefits can be seen clearly. The patent attorney can concentrate more on analysing a search result.


What is the ‘foolproof’ method of conducting a sufficient novelty and availability search?

There is no “foolproof” method of conducting a search, irrespective of search methods used (like AI tools). Searches are mostly done on electronic databases, like patent databases, electrical libraries, science publications etc. It depends on the content of databases what can be found. Not all publications are available in electronic form, or some relevant publications in electric form may be outside the searched databases.  In addition, relevant prior art can also include products in the market. Products may contain relevant features on which there are no written material publicly available. In any case, it is useful to do searches.


What are the various options for IP strategies and how do you pick a suitable one?

Regarding IP strategies there are actually two main possible ways: the owner of an IP right utilises the right directly, or the owner utilises the right indirectly. Direct utilisation means, for example, that the owner directly produces products that are protected by a patent or patents. Indirect utilisation means, for example, that the owner gives a license to a manufacturer in order to produce and sell products that are protected by a patent of the owner. Selling a patent is also indirect utilisation. These main lines of IP strategies comprise a number of different ways to obtain desired goals. For instance, a company having patents may prefer to utilise them directly, but at the same time the company sells licenses to certain patents. Selling patents to other manufactures can increase the income of the company. IP strategy is always owner/company specific. In order to pick a suitable strategy, a company’s business and markets should be known, and how patents can support efficiently the goals of the company should be considered. So, as a patent attorney I provide suggestions for an IP strategy to a customer who needs a strategy. But it is always the customer who makes the final decision.


Which industry is currently facing the biggest challenge, in relation to patenting? In what ways do you think they can work through the patent issues they may face?

The subject matter of this question is broad, and there can be different answers, but I think that any industry where 3D printing can be used has to consider how patents are applied. Currently, many companies use 3D printing for manufacturing their products, and the number of companies is increasing. Especially single complex products can be manufactured cost-efficiently by using 3D printing. Even large objects can be printed. However, manufacturers of products that can be printed in small 3D printers, which are suitable for domestic use, may face challenges in how to monitor their IP rights. Since the relationship between 3D printing and patents (and other IP rights) is a relatively new subject, there is no clear answer currently for how to work through this issue. We are following the issue, and it seems that the distribution networks of products are going to change, which affects the monitoring of IP rights.

Timo Pitkänen
European Patent Attorney
+358 40 772 7401


I am a Partner at Berggren and I have over 20 years’ experience in the fields of IP relating to patents, designs and trademarks. I have worked in patent offices and in industrial companies. Currently I handle patents and designs, focusing mainly on patents and utility models. My technical knowledge is mostly in the fields of electrics, mechanics, telecommunications and software.

Berggren is an IP house providing services relating to different IP matters. We take care of the whole IP life cycle, starting from small ideas and helping them to grow into big business.  Protecting IP rights gives our clients new opportunities to develop even more successful business. Strong IP helps to differentiate from competitors and grow locally and globally. Commercialising IP helps our customers to maximise revenue and return on investments. We have offices in Finland and USA.

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