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Data is the Fuel of the Future Economy, WIPO Director General says in Opening IP and Frontier Technologies Meeting

October 8, 2021

Data is the fuel for the emergence of frontier technologies driving the fourth industrial revolution, and understanding the interaction between data and established IP systems is critical, WIPO Director General Daren Tang said in opening the most recent session of the WIPO Conversation on IP and Frontier Technologies.

The fourth session of the WIPO Conversation took place in a virtual format, with over 1,000 people from 113 countries tuning in live to participate in a discourse including contributions from the academic sectors, government and international organizations – highlighting the role of data in the digital economy and the regulatory challenges it creates. A number of innovators and creators described how they use data. This was followed by a discussion by academic and legal experts on the role of data in the current IP system.

Underlining the economic impact of frontier technologies, Mr. Tang said that frontier technologies now represent a $350 billion market, which could become a $3.2 trillion market as soon as 2025.

“From work by Zoom to 5G, cryptocurrencies to telehealth, the digitalization of our lives and work has been accelerated by the pandemic. This has significant economic, social and cultural implications, including for how we build back better and face a number of global challenges,” said Mr. Tang: “If digitalization is the engine of the future economy, then data is its fuel.”

As an intangible asset, data highlights the increasingly important role IP is playing in the global economy and raises several complex questions for the international IP system.  Understanding the nature and value of data, and how data fits into the IP system, is going to be key for designing appropriate regulatory frameworks for the emerging data ecosystems, he said.

The Fourth Session of the WIPO Conversation set out to do just that.

The first day of the Conversation focused on building awareness and understanding of what data is and why it plays such a central role in the digital economy. The day continued with an overview of the mesh of interlinked regulatory frameworks governing data and hearing stories from some innovators and creators explaining how they are using data to grow their business.

The second day focused on the key discussion of how data fits into the existing global IP system, and whether these current provisions are sufficient. This topic was introduced by five experts who discussed data and IP in the context of patents, copyright, trade secrets, sui generis database rights and contract law. This was followed by an open discussion in which around 25 interveners from member states, IP Offices, enterprises and individuals took the floor.

WIPO will continue the Conversation IP and Frontier Technologies with two to three sessions a year. One of the possible topics for future sessions could be to look at what data and frontier technologies can do for the IP system. Another possible topic could be a practical approach to handling AI inventions, including examination guidelines.  

In between sessions, WIPO will be trialing a number of new formats, including a webinar on national data strategies.

Dates for the 2022 sessions of the WIPO Conversation and details about the upcoming webinar will be announced soon. If you would like to receive the most up to date information, please get in touch to subscribe to the frontier technologies mailing list.


The WIPO Conversation is a forum to engage with and facilitate discussion about the impact of frontier technologies on IP, including artificial intelligence. WIPO began this series of conversations as a way of convening a diverse group of stakeholders to exchange information, build knowledge and support well-informed policy choices in an area that is rapidly reshaping our economies and societies.