AI Patent Filing: Worldwide Scenario and Its Legal Aspects

by December 11, 2019

AI advents are omnipresent in various spheres of human life. Owing to which, not too much of a surprise, today innovators and AI experts are rushing towards building their intellectual property portfolio in artificial intelligence. This has led to several ML or AI-related patent or applications filing in recent years.

According to a recent article, ML-based patents application have nearly quadrupled in the last few years, as a result of widespread use of the same in all major technological fields.


AI-Patent Filing Scenario in India

India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and it showcases a keen interest in technological development as well.

Reportedly, in June 2018, the government Think Tank – NITI Aayog had published a discussion paper on the National Strategy for AI “AIforAll”. It has a theme to boost AI outreach to the general public which further reflected in the patent filings within India. As per recent studies, India is emerging as a new target for patent filing in AI. It is among the top countries for publications in specific categories including computer vision and natural language processing.

India has been ranked on the 8th place for first filings in 2015, by reports based on worldwide filing trends for AI. In particular, the country has been placed at 5th rank in patent filing relating to distributed AI.

Also according to Dataquest, Microsoft and Accenture are amongst the top patent filers in India followed by Tata, and HCL Technologies.

Let us explore the global scenario of AI Patent Filing. According to WIPO’s Technology Trends paper, here are key highlights.

•  The United States of America has the largest number of AI-related patent applications closely followed by China.

•  Globally, IBM has the largest AI portfolio (by patent families).

•  BT Group is the top UK player, with 86 AI-related patent families.

•  Magic Pony Technology has a highly specialized AI portfolio. Notably, the company was acquired by Twitter for US$ 102 million in 2016.

•  The US is the most important foreign jurisdiction for protection for British entities.

•  US businesses have surpassed British applicants to be the top filers at the UK’s IP office as probably a large number of the top AI patent filers are from the US.

•  AI-related technologies are the major drivers for an increasing proportion of patents filed globally.


Legal Aspects of AI-Patent Filing

Based on the experts’ views from the USPTO AI: Intellectual Property Policy Considerations Conference, held earlier this year, here are significant legal aspects of AI-Patent Filing in the global landscape.

In Europe, China, Japan, and Singapore

The European Patent Office issued new guidelines that cover AI and ML. The guidelines state that AI and ML “are based on computational models and algorithms” that “are per se of an abstract mathematical nature.” In order to quantify for a patent, an invention must first have a “technical character,” that can relate to a technical field and is concerned with a technical problem.

Additionally, the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act defines “computer-generated” works as those “generated by the computer in circumstances such that there is no human author of the work.” It also illustrates the effect on authorship, citing – “the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.”

On the other hand, in China, the patentability of AI-generated inventions has not been strongly debated yet. However, it is being considered that the country will soon possibly intensify the deliberation as patent applications are filed that are based solely on AI. Also, Chinese copyright law does not include machine-generated works from copyright protection as it is extremely debatable.

When it comes to Japan, the country has not concluded yet as to whether AI-generated works should receive patents protection. Recently, the Japanese Patent Office has provided case examples relevant to AI-related technologies. The examples have been provided in both English and Japanese languages.

While in Singapore, IP policies are considered as a middle-of-the-road (i.e., not maximalist or minimalist). The experts argued that such policies have appeared to help Singapore thrive as a country over the past 50 years. Also, Singapore released a framework for the ethical use of AI. It recognizes that AI will only reach its full potential if the public trusts it.