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Automation & robotics

The concept of robotics arguably dates back to ancient Greece where, according to Greek mythology, Talos, a giant bronze automaton, circled the island of Crete three times daily to protect the Greek goddess, Europa. Whilst Talos may represent the first description of a robot, it was a long wait until the term ‘robotics’ was first used in print in 1941 by the author of ‘I Robot’, Isaac Asimov. Today, robotics is a well-established branch of technology dealing with the construction, design, operation and application of robots.

As a general definition, a robot is a machine which is capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Increasingly, modern day robots are becoming fully autonomous systems, which are able to respond to changes in their environment without the need for human input. This progression has been driven by advances in artificial intelligence, mechatronics, object recognition and sensing and information processing.

Due to these advances, robotics now has applications in countless diverse fields, such as manufacturing, medicine, military technology, biohazards, social care, and space exploration. The prevalence of robots in cinema has also brought this technology to the forefront of the public consciousness.

It is no surprise  that the robotics market is substantial, with the global industrial robotics market expected to grow in value to around $40.75 billion by 2024. In particular, the global medical robotics market is projected to be worth $4.09 billion by 2024.

Innovation in robotics is research-intensive and often collaborative. In this field innovation requires a network of research institutions and technology intensive firms working together to bring together know-how and build on the latest developments in materials science, motive power, control systems, sensing and computing. As a result, advances typically happen at the interface between public and private research, with firms commercialising innovations often developed through long-term partnerships with universities and other public research organisations.

Due to this model of collaboration, the capital-intensive nature of robotics R&D and with increasing numbers of players in the robotics field, a robust IP strategy is becoming ever more important to safeguard the interests of the various parties. In this way, patent protection can be particularly important in this field to allow companies to recoup their investment, and is particularly important where an invention can be reverse engineered. As the number of first patent filings in robotics has been increasing worldwide since the 1980s, the need for IP protection in this field continues to grow.

Alongside patents, trade secrets, design rights, copyright and trademarks are all important forms of IP that have application in the robotics innovation ecosystem. Our expert team can help companies and inventors protect and commercialise their robotics technology.