Ken Philp's decades in brave new world of intellectual property

When Ken Philp entered the world of intellectual property law, the Internet did not exist, nor did mobile phones. Now, computers with artificial intelligence are running complex IP legal cases.

That’s just one of the enormous changes he has experienced in a career field spanning more than 35 years with technology changes that sound like science fiction but are increasingly real.

Ken Philp, one of the founding partners of Brisbane law firm Bennett & Philp Lawyers is now widely regarded as one of the top "go-to" people in intellectual property law in Australia.

He’s in the news with a distinguished ranking in the highly regarded Doyles Legal Guide. This year he and the firm’s co-founder Tony Bennett, are recognised as two of the only four IP lawyers in Brisbane who qualify as “preeminent” in the 2017 list.

This year Ken was nominated as a Finalist in the prestigious Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards for intellectual property in 2017.

Ken has won landmark intellectual property cases and works in a high tech world of complex law and rapidly evolving technology. Not bad for a man who does not have a mobile phone.

That said, he has an Ipad and is rarely parted from it, recently doing complex work on a landmark trademark matter while holidaying in London. The experience illustrates the increasingly blurred lines between work and private life that affects many legal professionals in 2017.

“Our whole society now is based on technology. It increasingly controls our lives and will do so even more in the future as artificial intelligence (AI) is used even more for efficiency and cost-saving in business”.

Ken’s successful litigation career extends back to the early 1980's. He has successfully litigated a number of high profile IP cases in the Federal Court of Australia and in appeals to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia and also the High Court of Australia over the past few decades.

Over the course of his career in IP he and his co-founder partner Tony Bennett have won significant decisions that have set major precedents in intellectual property law.

One of them, CCOM Pty Ltd v Jiejing Pty Ltd  from 1994, achieved international fame as it involved the patentability of computer software. This historically important case is still taught in IP law studies today.

His most recent victory was in the latest round of the global trade mark war between rival alcohol brands Wild Geese and Wild Turkey resulting in a precedent-setting win for his client, Wild Geese Whiskey.

The case was closely followed by international interests and Ken reflects that major changes overseas will inevitably impact on how we run matters in Australia.

“There’s a lot of pressure in the USA to make increased use of artificial intelligence programmes to drive down the cost of running a matter. There are AI programmes now that enable you to feed thousands of documents into a computer database and the litigation programme evaluates the data then highlights the strengths and weaknesses of a case and predicts the likely outcome and creates a strategy for lawyers to follow in court.

“It’s a scary futuristic scenario and sounds like a Steven Spielberg movie plot but it’s real and it’s happening, all in the name of driving down litigation costs. Incidentally increased reliance on computers and AI reduces the need for more lawyers so there’s a career aspect to consider there too.”

Document discovery is another example. Time was, teams of lawyers would beaver away amassing countless pages of documents for use in court. One million pages was not unknown for a big matter.

“Now there are AI programmes to do document analysis in a fraction of the time, replacing the need for humans,” Ken says.

The future of law is inextricably tied up with the evolution of technology. More and more, intellectual property work (IP) will involve the Internet, cybercrime and intellectual copyright. The same applies to trademark and patent work.

Australia has generally kept apace with technological evolution in the legal world, and Ken feels the country is very innovative in its attitude toward innovation patents.

As a senior intellectual property law specialist, he deals with complex and challenging disputes. His extensive, specialised intellectual property experience includes providing advice on copyright, trade mark, design and patent issues, brand protection, confidential information and its protection and litigation. Ken advises both international and Australia entities, investors and small to medium sized enterprises. His client and referral networks extend to the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. 

China too. Ken was the key instigator in forging Bennett & Philp's strong ties with a wide network of independent law firms in regional China. He has arranged and presented at the firm's successful "Doing Business in Australia" seminar series in Chinese cites.

Through Ken, Bennett & Philp Lawyers have hosted trade delegations and business matching into Brisbane and Queensland regions. As with other areas, IP topics resonate in dealings with China too.

“It’s impossible to predict where IP is going in the years ahead but one reality is the wonderful  industry of ideas in Australia. We have some good ideas created here but we don’t always encourage them here so people sell them overseas.

“We need to have more confidence in Australian-devised ideas. Also we can’t afford to keep technology at arm’s length. I started in this work when the internet was just a dream. Now none of us can imagine a world without it.

“How many people now can conceive a world that did not have big screen TVs, a home computer, microwave ovens, personal computers in your mobile phone and the ability to activate your home appliances while driving.”

The media recently indulged in some future predictions with tech experts and futurists looking ahead to Australia in the year 2050- a mere 33 years away. Not surprisingly the experts agreed the future is about technology.

A virtual world eerily indistinguishable from reality, sophisticated computer chips implanted under our skin, even Westworld-style theme parks with robot adversaries. That’s the brave new world.

Without a doubt, the biggest innovation expected to transform our way of life is the growing emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, futurist and digital consultant Chris Riddell is reported as saying. His remarks parallel those of Ken Philp.

We are moving toward self-improving artificial general intelligence, effectively meaning computers that can act like humans but with almost infinite processing power.

“You won’t have just humans at the top of business by the year 2050,” according to Mr Riddell. Chief executives will likely work alongside a computing system that will help them make decisions.

Employees will be required to do an array of different jobs that will be allocated by an intelligent computing system.

Meanwhile relatively simple advances like driverless cars and drones are already here and will play an even bigger role in future society Ken Philp says.

It is a sobering, perhaps frightening path toward the future, but Mr Philp believes the fundamentals of a human-directed society will be preserved, and with them the ongoing role to protect individuals’ patents and intellectual property rights will go on undiminished.

We will still need IP lawyers.