We asked some of the Mathys & Squire team to share their predictions for 2018, and trends they think their clients should look out for!
David Hobson considers IP changes in the Agri-tech sector..
CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology has come a long way since its initial conception in the early 2010s, and promises to revolutionise the future of molecular biology and Agri-Tech in particular. The CRIPSR/Cas9 system allows researchers to easily and specifically edit genomes, overcoming many of the attendant difficulties of working with eukaryotes, such as plants. In combination with the newly-developed use of the system to control gene activation without genome editing (see Liao et al (2017), Cell, 171, 7, 1495-1507) and the involvement of tech giants such as Microsoft in refining the system, those working in the field of Agri-Tech are now in possession of an expanding toolbox of techniques.
We predict this will lead to rapid development in the field over the coming years, helping to address the demands for food production by an ever-expanding world population. However, the CRISPR/Cas9 patent landscape is highly complex and businesses seeking to use this technology will need to seek Freedom to Operate advice.
The Agri-Tech team at Mathys & Squire is well-placed to offer such advice, and has a wealth of experience in this technical area.
If you have any questions for David please contact him here.
Svilen Mirtchev predicts some of the changes that clients should look out for when registering their designs..
1. More clarity regarding Community (European) Registered Designs (CRDs) after the UK’s departure from the EU
It is expected (or at least hoped) that the consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU (expected around March 2019) on CRDs will become more apparent in 2018. In particular, a major outstanding concern is whether it will be possible to convert existing CRDs into UK Registered Designs and, if so, the process for doing so.
2. The UK Government will join the Hague Agreement for internal design registrations.
In recent years the Hague Agreement has seen renewed interest as an increasing number of – major – territories have signed-up to the Hague Agreement. The UK Government intends to join the Hague Agreement in 2018, which means that applicants using this international design system will have direct access to the UK Registered Design system.
3. US to lead CRD filings, but China is closing in.
Consistently, US applicants file the most CRDs out of all non-EU applicants. The volume of CRD filings by Chinese applicants has increased exponentially in recent years; whilst this growth is flattening, China is nonetheless closing in on the US. 2018 could therefore mark the year in which China – for the first time – files more CRDs than the US, or at the very least the numbers will be the closest yet.
If you have any questions for Svilen please contact him here.
Laura Clews looks at some interesting trends in the food sector..
1. Alcohol-Free Drinks
Many of the changes we are seeing in the food industry are based around growing consumer awareness regarding their health.
In line with this, alcohol–free drinks are predicted to be a major growth area in 2018 due to the fact that millennials are consuming less and less alcohol. It has been noted that consumers aren’t satisfied with drinking endless glasses of cranberry juice or tonic water, and so are looking for something more exciting when they head to the bar.
One company stepping up to fill the gap is Seedlip, a UK based company, producing alcohol-free distilled spirits, already available in Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Michelin-starred restaurants such as The Fat Duck.
It is expected that we will see many other companies investing in exciting new alcohol-free drinks to meet consumer demand in 2018.
One of the most cutting edge areas of food science is the use of heme to produce environmentally sustainable meat alternatives.
Food-Tech start-up company, Impossible Foods, use heme to bring a more realistic meaty taste to their plant based burgers. Impossible burgers use genetically engineered yeast to produce leghemoglobin, a heme similar myoglobin (a protein abundant in animal muscles which binds oxygen and gives meat its unique flavour and aroma) to create the authentic taste and texture.
Impossible Foods boasts that its plant-based burger not only bleeds and sizzles when it cooks but the manufacture of these burger uses about 1/20th the land, 1/4th the water, and produces 1/8th the greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional beef burgers.
For those of you desperate to get your hands on one of these meaty meat-free burgers, the US based firm, Impossible Foods, are expected to launch their product in the UK in early 2018.
3. Lab manufactured meats
For the carnivores amongst us, lab-grown meat (also known as “clean meat”) is set to make a big impact in 2018. Lab-grown meat is produced by using stem cells form a living animal to grow muscle tissue which is then processed into food product and is predicted to be available in supermarkets in 2018. Meat formed in this way may not be appealing to all consumers, however the production process is considered to have numerous benefits, including a significantly reduced impact on the environment compared to traditional animal farming methods. In addition, lab-grown meat can be engineered to contain increased amounts of protein or decrease the amount of saturated fat, and so can be a healthier meat choice for consumers. Growing meat in a laboratory instead of farming animals can also minimise animal-borne diseases and pathogens, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.
Lab-grown meat appears to be a new worldwide trend with China signing a $300-million deal to import cultured meat from Israel, and both Bill Gates and Richard Branson are also believed to have invested in U.S. company Memphis Meats, which also produces lab-grown meat products.
4. Sugar Reduction
Reducing sugar levels in food and drinks was a huge trend in 2017, and 2018 looks to continue this trend. Companies, such as Nestle, are finding new and innovative ways to reduce sugar levels in food and drink whist maintaining the taste and texture expected by consumers.
Such innovation includes producing new sweetener combinations and the use of hollowed sugar crystals.
With the introduction of the higher sugar tax on drinks in April 2018, we believe that we will see a number of different solutions relating to reduced sugar food and drinks emerging in 2018.
Veganism was one of the biggest food trends in 2017 and the number of people turning to a meat-free lifestyle is not expected to slow down in 2018. This change in consumer purchasing is considered to be driven younger generations selecting healthier and more environmentally friendly food options.
A survey by The Vegan Society in 2016 showed that over 542,000 people in the UK are now following a vegan diet and the Mirror reported that there was a 987% increase in demand for vegetarian options this year.
The food industry appears to be following the consumers new desire to go meat-free and are providing new and exciting product to make vegetarianism and veganism easier and tastier than ever before.
If you have any questions for Laura please contact her here.
Michael Charlton reviews changes in the telecoms sector..
2018 promises to be a crucial year in the development of standards for fifth generation mobile technologies. The International Telecommunications Union’s IMT-2020 framework as well as discussions borne out of 3rd Generation Partnership Project (e.g. 3GPP TS22.261, which defines the service requirements for 5G systems) and European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute (ETSI) standardisation meetings, have defined a very ambitious and stringent set of requirements for 5G networks. In particular, improvements to latency (i.e. the delay when signalling in the network), capacity targets and efficiency gains, as well as the application of these requirements to use cases such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR) and network slicing, will be of particular importance. I believe that not all of these ambitious requirements can be achieved (at least in the short term due to the limits of available technology) and consequently companies will not focus their research on just one or two of these requirements (as they have done with earlier standards) but will instead research many more of the requirements. Therefore, I expect that the clients I work with who are working in this area will start to file new patent applications over a wider range of technologies and use cases.
With a range of applications and patents at their disposal, applicants and proprietors will be able to increase their impact on the standardisation process as well as, of course, increase the number of their patents which are essential to a given standard. This is particularly important given the fierce competition in the telecommunications field.
Of particular note, 3GPP are due to publish the “Release 15” specification for the first phase of the 5G networks in June of this year –we look forward to continue drafting and prosecuting our clients’ patent portfolios and advising our clients as regards the essentiality of their patents with respect to such standards.
If you have any questions for Michael please contact him here.
Andrew White discusses developments in the engineering sector..
With the announcement last year that the Government plans to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, it is no surprise that there has been a large uptake in electric and hybrid vehicles. In fact, there are now more than 125,000 plug-in vehicles on the road today compared to just 3500 in 2013. With similar announcements made in France and other European countries, and the introduction of the “T-charge” in central London, we can expect to see the growth in hybrid and electric vehicles increase this year. This, of course, brings with it associated problems – such as whether there is sufficient charging infrastructure to support this growth, and how the National Grid will cope.
With the acquisition of our client Sevcon last year (who specialise in controllers for electric motors) by US Tier 1 automotive company Borg Warner (see news story here) we can expect to see Intellectual Property in this sector – whether in terms of mergers and acquisitions, or from new players on the block – growing and becoming increasingly prominent in 2018.
The Engineering team at Mathys & Squire LLP are well placed to meet this growth with their experience in battery, hybrid and electric motor technologies and their presence in the North East with existing clients and membership of the North East Automotive Alliance.
If you have any questions for Andrew please contact him here.