The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Democratization of Patent Agency

Posted: 28 Jun 2018

See all articles by Wissam Aoun

Wissam Aoun

University of Windsor - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 21, 2018


During the first Industrial Revolution, the patent system developed in an era of democratized invention. Individual inventors dominated patent filings and helped create a narrative surrounding the transformative impact of the patent system on the lives of inventors and society. Existing scholarship often overlooks the role of patent agents, those individuals who assisted inventors in securing patent rights, during this era. Industrial Revolution era patent agency was broad and indiscrete compared to its current form, which was largely a product of the needs of individual inventors and a pre-professionalization view of the discipline. As corporatization slowly replaced the individual inventor and professionalization began to dominate many occupational fields, the professional patent agent materialized. However, the emergence of disruptive technologies in our new Fourth Industrial Revolution may be reversing both of these trends, with the re-emergence of democratized invention and challenging the discretization of many fields of professional service.

Examining the historical development of patent agency from the 19th through the early 20th century, this piece traces the professionalization of patent agency alongside corresponding socioeconomic developments, such as the rise of corporatization and the general professionalization movement. This historical analysis will demonstrate how socioeconomic trends of the era shaped the identity of the early patent agents, and how simultaneously, this emerging profession influenced the development of patent institutions. Fast forwarding to the present, this piece examines how emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and open-source file sharing, are contributing to the growth of democratized invention in this new Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, this piece examines how new developments in AI may radically disrupt the provision of patent services, potentially leading to a new form of democratized patent agency. Using lessons learned from the first Industrial Revolution, this piece examines what a new world of democratized patent agency may look like and what effect this may have on our current patent institutions.

Suggested Citation

Aoun, Wissam, The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Democratization of Patent Agency (June 21, 2018). Available at SSRN:

Wissam Aoun (Contact Author)

University of Windsor - Faculty of Law ( email )

401 Sunset Avenue
Windsor, Ontario N9B3P4

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