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The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Article by Vikas Verma

Introduction to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), marked by the integration of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and connectivity, is experiencing an explosive growth in patent applications. A comprehensive study utilizing data from the European Patent Office (EPO) illuminates this era of innovation, emphasizing the critical role of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

Patent Applications and the Acceleration of 4IR Innovations

In 2016, patent applications at the EPO reflected the transformative potential of connected, autonomously operating objects, constituting over 3% of total applications. This substantial surge underscores the rapid integration of core and enabling technologies into various application domains, highlighting the pivotal role of Intellectual Property Rights in protecting these innovations.

Key Application Domains and Core Technologies

Application domains like Personal and Enterprise are thriving as innovation hubs, with patent applications concentrated in sectors such as Vehicles and Home. Core technologies, especially Connectivity, are witnessing a boom in patent applications. Notably, the top 5 applicants – Samsung, Huawei, LG, Siemens, and Qualcomm have played a significant role in driving innovation in these areas.

Concentration of Patents and the Role of IPR

Competitive dynamics in 4IR innovation are accentuated by the concentration of patent applications among the top 25 applicants, predominantly ICT-focused companies. The top 5 applicants exemplify the strategic use of Intellectual Property Rights, particularly patents, to secure exclusivity and incentivize further investment in research and development.

Global Innovation Centers and IPR Strategies

Europe, the USA, and Japan have emerged as primary global innovation centers for 4IR technologies. Germany and France lead the innovation landscape in Europe, each contributing unique strengths. Intellectual Property Rights strategies in these regions involve securing patents across various technology fields, application domains, and enabling technologies, reinforcing their positions as global innovation leaders.

Regional Concentration and IPR-driven Innovation

The study highlights regional concentration in 4IR innovation within Europe, with certain regions standing out as key hubs. The greater Paris area and the greater Munich area serve as exemplary cases where Intellectual Property Rights facilitate regional concentration, nurturing innovation clusters.

Impact of IoT and the Role of IPR in Future Innovations

Forecasts predict the pervasive impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) in penetrating various sectors in the European economy, driving the next wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Intellectual Property Rights, particularly patents, will continue to be instrumental in protecting innovations emerging from interconnected objects, safeguarding the economic value created through data and software advancements.


In conclusion, the Fourth Industrial Revolution hinges on the protection and promotion of innovation through Intellectual Property Rights. The top 5 applicants, including industry giants like Samsung, Huawei, LG, Siemens, and Qualcomm, exemplify the strategic use of IPR in navigating the fiercely competitive landscape of 4IR. As technological transformations continue at an unprecedented pace, the role of IPR becomes increasingly pivotal in fostering innovation and driving economic growth.