Jargon busting the confusing world of intellectual property

The rising influence of the internet in the world of business has made intellectual property a more complex issue for CEOs around the world.

However, intellectual property brings with it an abundance of confusing acronyms that are often misinterpreted, misused or just not understood.

The following is an attempt to shed light on some of the mysterious buzzwords and abbreviations that may frustrated business leaders.

Take for example application programming interfaces (APIs). People often have a vague idea an API would be a good thing to have, but aren’t sure why or what they are.

>See also: Employees or hackers: who poses the biggest threat to your IP?

APIs are tools for building software and applications. They provide an interface between software and other applications which allow third party programmes to access the data and use it in a manner which maintains the functionality of both pieces of software by maintaining the independence of the API itself.

A good example is Google Maps' API.  It allows businesses such as Yelp to layer data (in the case of Yelp: ratings and reviews) on top of Google's location based information.

Cloud computing is becoming the norm for many organisations for the delivery of IT services. Examples you may have come across include software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and a relative newcomer, integration platform as a service (IPaaS).

The exact nature of what you would get if you decided to purchase, for example, SaaS could vary widely depending on the particular vendor and their business model.

The cloud can perhaps best be seen as a spectrum of possible ICT provisioning models, each sharing some common characteristics.

You would expect any cloud service to be on-demand; accessible anytime and from anywhere; involve pooling of resources to serve multiple customers; offer rapid scaling of capabilities; and deliver measured service (the customer pays for what it uses).

‘Cognitive’ artificial intelligence (AI) systems are the super computers that are going to be able to beat you at chess while making your dinner. 

Put simply, they are question-answering computer systems capable of answering questions posed in natural language, and they are cognitive because they use existing knowledge to develop new knowledge.

IBM's cognitive AI computer Watson won the quiz show Jeopardy! and is currently assisting in lung cancer treatment at a cancer centre in New York.

‘Data sovereignty’ is getting thrown about in meetings where people want to show they mean business. However, any use of data sovereignty should be challenged, and whoever used it should be asked to define exactly what they are talking about.

Data sovereignty shouldn't be confused with ‘data rights’ (being the intellectual property rights in a company's data or databases) or ‘data security’ (the bundle of controls which an organisation employs to keep its data secure). And it definitely shouldn't be confused with ‘data protection’ (the legal rights and obligations that arise specifically in relation to personal data).

Data sovereignty perhaps refers to government agencies' right to access an organisation's data, but it's not clear. And ‘personal data’ (an EU law concept) shouldn't be used interchangeably with ‘personally identifiable information’ (PII), which is a US privacy law concept.

Offering an ‘indemnity’ can be a tempting solution to a tricky impasse during negations, but it's very important to understand that if A indemnifies B against any loss or damage suffered where A fails to perform its obligations under the agreement, then B won't have to demonstrate that the loss suffered is not too remote from the breach, and B won't have to try and mitigate its loss.

Your starting point should always be that if A is in breach of contract, B will have remedies under the general law of contract (meaning that B will have to prove its loss, and mitigate its damages).

‘Taking it offline’ can also be a tempting solution to a tricky impasse during negotiations, but often just leads to whatever is being taken offline not being properly thought about until the next time everybody is ‘online’.

>See also: The disappointing truth about data privacy and security

Personally, it also conjures a rather grisly image of everybody in a meeting being somehow all plugged into some giant (and no doubt ‘cognitive AI’) supercomputer.

And finally, ‘Gamma’ is the third letter of the Greek alphabet, and a word used in the name of a million start-ups.

‘Nano’ is a unit prefix meaning one billionth, and a word used in the name of a million start-ups.

‘Quantum’ is is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction, and, you guessed it, a word used in the name of a million start-ups.


Sourced from John D. McGonagle, senior associate in the Intellectual Property and Technology (IPT) team at DLA Piper Scotland

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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