AI Business recently met with the newly-expanded New York City-based team of Trademarknow, speaking with their Chief Scientist Anna Ronkainen, Alison Shurell, Chief Marketing Officer and Charles Hill, Head of Product. AI Business also spoke with a number of clients of Trademarknow, as the company announced record-growth of over 400% internationally. Based out of Finland, Trademarknow now has clients globally from a broad spectrum of industries, with the top four industry verticals represented being pharma, legal services, technology and advertising.
Tell us about your journey so far with Trademarknow – what was the inspiration for the business, and what are you aiming to achieve?
TrademarkNow is a software company that was founded to address a pervasive pain in the market related to trademark clearing and protection. As with most companies who introduce an innovative new way of doing something, our company was founded by someone who actually experienced the pain first hand. Our CEO, Mikael Kolehmainen, is an international trademark attorney who experienced the pain of trademark searching, clearing and watching using the old manual methods and archaic technology first hand for eight years before founding TrademarkNow. Mikael got to a point where he said, “There has to be a better way!” When he realized that actually, there wasn’t a better way, he recognized that there was an unmet market need in desperate need of a solution. While Mikael was practicing trademark law and getting frustrated with the lack of tools and technology available, Anna Ronkainen, a computer programming and law student at the University of Helsinki, was doing research on computational modeling of legal reasoning (in laymen’s terms, artificial intelligence to make computers think and reason like a human lawyer).
Mikael was on the look-out for work that was being done in AI and law, and was on a mailing list for grad students from the University of Helsinki, and got a note about a lecture that Anna was doing on her work. Long story short, Anna’s work and Mikael’s business strategy were a match made in heaven. Mikael quickly brought in two technology gurus who could develop the platform, and the company was born. Funding quickly following in the form of pre-seed funding and government grants in 2012, seed funding in 2013, and $3.4M Series A funding, led by Balderton Capital in May 2014. In mid-2013, we launched NameCheck™, our intelligent trademark search product, which was very well received by the market. In 2014, we opened our US office in NYC, hired our Head of Sales and Head of Marketing based there, launched our new trademark watching product NameWatch™, and ended the year with a customer growth rate of 167%. In 2015, we expanded our footprint with the opening of our Kilkenny, Ireland office, and expanded the team which is now about 30 employees worldwide. We also expanded the common law features of NameCheck, in response to demand from the US market. We ended 2015 with bang, receiving the Gold Stevie Award for “Company of The Year – Legal” at the 2015 International Business Awards, and seeing a global revenue growth rate of 416% in 2015, including 775% growth in our U.S. client base alone.
As far as what we are aiming to achieve, we are looking to completely eradicate the manual effort related to trademark management. From searching and clearing to watching and protecting your trademarks, we want to streamline the process while producing higher-quality, relevant results. In so doing, trademark attorneys can get back to the “lawyerly” part of their job, reviewing and analyzing results to make decisions, instead of wasting time looking for and gathering the information.
Can you give a brief overview of your proposition, and the benefits it offers to an organisation?
Up until now, trademark attorneys have had to wait up to a week to find out if names they are interested in trademarking are safe to pursue. Traditionally, significant manual human effort by attorneys and paralegals has been required to conduct a comprehensive trademark search – searching for identical and similar marks in global trademark registries across multiple product classes, exploring word meaning in multiple languages, investigating internet domains and assessing common law risks.
What we’ve done at TrademarkNow is replace this manual human effort with unique artificial intelligence based on 12+ years of research in domain models of trademark law, linguistics and machine learning. We provide trademark teams with access to this via a simple, easy-to-use SaaS platform that presents results in a visually clean and prioritized manner. Now, enterprise trademark teams, outside counsel, and branding agencies can get a comprehensive trademark search report in 15 seconds, instead of a week. This dramatically diminishes the time and money spent on naming projects and equips teams to make better, faster decisions.
Rovio Entertainment’s Robert Hagelstam, Legal Counsel commented exclusively on AI Business ‘Rovio depends on IPR – we frequently have brands out in the market! Every time we have a new brand that Rovio want to use, I use Trademarknow to check if somoene else has already trademarked this.’ Highlighting the choice to bring things in-house he added ‘previously we had an external supplier who did this – but then we took a strategic decision to take it in house, so all trademark registrations now happen in house. Our experience is that it is also more cost-effective.Trademarknow is a significant part of what enables us to do this!’
William R. Samuels of W.R. Samuels Law PLLC in New York City added ‘AI has automated a lot of the organisation of information that used to take us hours to put together. Using a tool like TradeMarknow has made our navigating of a significant number of data a lot easier. TradeMarknow has streamlined a number of our processes.’
What’s next for Trademarknow?
TrademarkNow has always placed our clients at the center of our strategy and everything we do, and we will continue to do this. By listening to our clients and understanding how we can make their job ever easier and further improve the results they get from using our platform, we can ensure that we continue to delight the market with our innovation. We are not innovating for the sake of innovation, we are innovating to solve a real market problem. And, what makes this so much fun, is that we’re the trailblazers in this space – no one else is applying artificial intelligence to trademark searching and watching the way we are. It is a real joy to be helping our clients truly change the way they do business through the use of technology.
In addition to further developing our core platform, we also plan to continue the rapid growth of our client base. We started with the European market, and entered the US in late 2014, and the growth has phenomenal. In 2015, we saw a 775% in our U.S. client base alone. As we look to the future, we plan to keep the growth momentum going in Europe and the US, as well as expand into other regions around the world.
Which Industries do you believe will be the pioneers in broadly adopting AI technologies? Is Legal one of them?
Anna Ronkainen, Chief Scientist of Trademarknow, thinks medicine will lead the way, together with retail and media. (And of course there are already industries which already now would look very different without AI, such as finance.) Within legal the progress will be more uneven, because general-purpose solutions will not be feasible within the foreseeable future. As a consequence, legal AI solutions will mostly be available for specific legal tasks or fields of law in the biggest jurisdictions (especially the US). Our own field of work, trademarks (and intellectual property law more broadly) is atypical in the sense that it is mostly based on international conventions and so the legal issues are quite uniform from a global perspective.
Anna, how do you see the Enterprise AI market evolving over the next 5 years?
Five years is too short a horizon to expect really radical changes (like specific job titles disappearing entirely, which will probably take at least a decade or two). Toolkits based on deep learning and other cutting-edge AI techniques will become increasingly readily available. The IBM Watson/DeepQA platform is probably the widest known example of these, but there are many others as well. With such tools, more and more companies can take a stab at solving their own problems and leveraging their hidden treasure troves of organization-specific big data without too much investment.
At the same time, a growing number of innovative solution providers will continue developing SaaS-based AI platforms to eliminate or support business functions across the board. These can range from the generic and universal (such as AI-based virtual assistants, like a business version of Apple’s Siri) to the highly specialized (like what we do at TrademarkNow, supporting trademark lawyers in their analysis of prior rights and incoming threats).