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Future of intellectual property in platformisation settings: reflections from the NextGen online platforms event 

27 Jun 2024

Future of intellectual property in platformisation settings: reflections from the NextGen online platforms event 

On 29 May, PPMI, in collaboration with TNO and the European Commission, organised a foresight session on the future of intellectual property in platformisation settings in Brussels, Belgium. The event took place in the context of the study ‘Participatory Foresight into Next Generation Online platforms’The event brought together policy makers, leading experts and practitioners to discuss the challenges and opportunities of intellectual property in the platformised world of 2035. 

Why is intellectual property important? 

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of intangible property that includes creations of the mind. Traditionally, IP rights (IPRs) have been divided into two types: artistic and industrial IP. Artistic IP would refer to copyright, and industrial IP would comprise patents and trademarks. IPRs give the creators of these assets the exclusive right to use, control, and profit from their creations.

IP plays an important role in: 

  • nurturing innovation - IP law protects the creations of the mind, including inventions, literary and artistic works, software, symbols, names, images, and designs. This protection encourages innovation by providing a legal framework for the commercialisation of these creations, and
  • securing commercial rewards - IP law grants time-limited monopolies to inventors and creators, allowing them to secure commercial rewards for their innovations. This incentivises further innovation and investment in the economy. 

The foresight exercise aims to explore how changing technological landscape, rapid platformisation of economy and society and changing power structures impact IP systems by 2035. 

Why is the future of IP in digital platforms important?  

As digitalisation continues to permeate different areas of life, it is essential to unpack the processes by which platformisation is transforming IPR creation, protection and enforcement to ensure IP still plays a relevant role in incentivising innovation in the future. The rise of platform-based economies is leading to a shift towards digital ownership of IP, where rights are associated with digital assets rather than physical ones, and platforms are enabling new collaborative ownership models, where multiple entities share ownership of IP (e.g., additive manufacturing, music production platforms). 

The speed and complexity of platform-driven innovation can outpace traditional IP systems designed primarily for physical goods and slower invention cycles, in particular introducing new enforcement complexities due to attribution and fragmentation of digital content as well as evolving methods of IPRs infringement. 

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Foresight session approach

During the session, participants were tasked with identifying the key risks and opportunities associated with the evolution of IP in platformisation settings in 2035. To do so, experts were invited to use ‘futures’, a narrative foresight tool describing possible worlds in 2035.  

The three potential futures explored during the session were: 

  • Coordinated Open Innovation Network where international collaboration, driven by the EU and its allies, leads to harmonised IP frameworks and state-led, multilateral AI enforcement. 
  • Proprietary Powerhouses dominated by big tech, this future sees platforms facilitating IP creation and enforcement, with AI playing a crucial role in managing IPRs. 
  • Innovation Frontiers, a fragmented landscape, where global cooperation breaks down, leading to varied IP regimes and reliance on localised enforcement. 

Foresight session results

As the result of this session, participants outlined the following challenges that highlight the complexities of managing IP in a future where large tech companies and platforms play a central role in innovation: 

  • implementing semi-automated, efficient, and affordable IP enforcement mechanisms that include human oversight; 
  • providing adequate incentives for collaboration and for companies to continue innovating in a highly competitive and regulated environment; 
  • enforcing IPRs rigorously and efficiently in a way that is cost-effective and does not stifle innovation or impose excessive burdens on stakeholders; 
  • addressing the concentration of power in the hands of a few dominant platforms, which can influence the direction of innovation; 
  • ensuring that platforms respect and uphold public policy interests and social values, including user rights, creators' rights, and inventors' rights, rather than bypassing them for commercial gain; 
  • adapting IP systems to provide adequate incentives in AI driven digital environments. 

However, participants also recognised opportunities for thriving and dynamic future of IP landscape, that include: 

  • leveraging automated IP enforcement mechanisms to efficiently protect IPRs, reducing infringement incidents and streamlining the enforcement process; 
  • implementing robust regulations for digital platforms to ensure fair practices, transparency, and accountability, which can foster a healthier and more equitable IP environment; 
  • enhancing the protection of IPRs to encourage innovation and investment, providing creators and companies with a secure environment to develop and commercialise their inventions; 
  • large market players acting as enablers for smaller innovators by providing access to resources, networks, and tools, thus paving the way for new entrants and fostering a more inclusive innovation ecosystem; 
  • with greater access to advanced tools and more time for creative endeavours, creators can more easily develop new ideas and innovations, leading to a richer and more diverse array of IP. 

Learn more about the study 

The event was part of a study carried out by PPMI and TNO for the European Commission, which examines the development of online platforms and their impact on European society and economy. You can find out more about the study here. 

Throughout the study, the team is engaging a wide range of stakeholders in co-creation and co-assessment exercises to uncover different future scenarios and their implications. This event is part of a series of participatory sessions with different stakeholders, including policy makers, industry, academia and youth. 

The results of this foresight session will feed into a paper on the future of digital health platforms to be published later this year. It will be one of ten foresight papers developed during the study.

If you would like to join our mailing list or get in touch with the study team, you can always contact them at