Decoding IP: Unravelling how YOU can protect your Intellectual Property

We sit down to chat with Lauren Stokoe, Director of IP Australia, as she unravels the complexities of IP law. Hear her insights on how she manages risk, and her aspirations for the future of IP in Australia.

5 minute read
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Lauren, we love making business connections, connecting people with people. Please could you share with us your elevator pitch for our listeners today that may not have met you.

As you know I’m at IP Australia, which is the Australian Government agency responsible for administering intellectual property rights. Our vision is to have a world leading Australian IP system that builds prosperity through innovation. We aim to give our customers efficient access to products and services so that they can continue to innovate and do what they do best.

So one of our products is TM Checker, and that's aimed at educating small to medium businesses who otherwise might not know about trademarks or the IP system to help them navigate the application process as quickly as easily as possible.

What type of role has AI played in your business or how do you feel about this new wave?

We've certainly begun to sort of lean in to the use of AI and understanding how it can improve effectiveness. There is a government agency, it's called the Digital Transformation Authority, but they're trying to develop some guidelines for use that government can use when we are using things like generative AI and tools that we then put out to the public. AI, I think a lot of people when it first sort of started coming more into the public sphere, it was thought of as a way of automating tasks. But it's what I've found in our use is it's actually a source of innovation and a source of insight that can help you improve your products and your services.  

At IP Australia, we use AI on some of our internal products. Our patent examiners use it when they're examining patent applications; it makes the quality higher. They don't use it for making the decisions or anything like that, but it helps them find more information about innovations and the like. TM Checker is an AI product. It's completely built using AI, because we basically have added in image recognition and natural language processing, so that when you're entering your logo or a business name that you might want to trademark, we can then search for existing trademarks using sort of that natural language processing and also using some of the image recognition and some of the AI models, which really reduces the complexity of the search, it improves the accuracy, and hopefully, ultimately will help increase the amount of people they engage with the IP system. I think AI in government, it's something that sometimes can be a bit feared or avoided, but it's something to be learned and leveraged for the benefit of your customers. It's something that you need to be educated about in my mind and in our work. I work in AI, but awareness is key.  

We carefully consider every model that we look at every change that we implement, every piece of data that goes into it to make sure it's secure and safe and protects users' data and privacy, but also that it is creating ultimately a better user experience. So that's basically where we come from. I think it's just the beginning that it's already improved the accuracy of our engine and of our tool. It's just the beginning. But I do think that that awareness and knowledge is really important.

We're fascinated by the way our community of small business owners perceive risk. How would you describe your relationship to the area of risk?

That's a great question. It's very interesting because we all engage and manage risks in our day to day lives. Whether personally or in your business, things that you take for granted around, for example I get in a car, I put on my seatbelt, I drive, and I'm engaging in risk by doing that. So my approach to risk is quite similar. I follow IP Australia's approach to risk management in the governments, which is not about stopping or preventing action. It's about empowering yourself, and your team to engage with that risk in an informed way - risk inevitable. Risk is often necessary for innovation and growth, but it needs to be managed carefully and responsibly in a very open and transparent sort of manner. I try to look at the benefits and the costs of taking a risk, the likelihood or the impact of different scenarios. And also what's my risk appetite for that particular, possible scenario? Knowing what my appetite for risk is, my business's appetite for risk is, and then also seeking feedback from sort of relevant people and stakeholders that you might have is important to know how far can we stretch something? We do it with TM Checker, we were just talking about AI and data privacy. There's risks with using AI. And we had to ensure that, for instance, the tool was as accurate as possible, that's reliable, it's secure, it's compliant with laws and legislation and data privacy. We conducted a huge amount of testing and validation and evaluation, and we talked to a lot of users, experts in sort of the security world, in trademarks, but also just small businesses to understand those sort of limitations.  

In my view, to sum up risk management is similar to the use of AI, in that go in with your eyes open, be conscious of your responsibility to your staff and your customers, and make sure that those risks are well considered.

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