AI and Machine Learning Patents – How do They Work?

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Since the emergence of rudimentary artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the 1950s, nearly 340,000 related inventions have been filed for patent.

This is according to the WIPO Technology Trends report, which also reveals that IBM currently has the largest portfolio of AI patent applications with 8,290.

But just how patentable are AI inventions and machine learning, and how does the process work in Europe?

What are the Guidelines for Examination with the EPO?

As we’ve already said, the number of AI-based patent applications is continuing to rise, with the European Patent Office (EPO) also revealing an increase in the amount of applications pertaining to programmed computer inventions.

Given this slew of AI and machine learning patent applications, it should come as no surprise that the EPO has recently updated its Guidelines for Examination. Many would argue that this update was long overdue, with attorneys suggesting that some patents have been unnecessarily delayed due to outdated and analogue guidelines.

The new body of legislation makes it clear that the EPO intends to treat AI and machine technologies as forms of mathematical method. Mathematical methods currently appear on the list of non-inventions defined by art, which are technically unpatentable due to their nature.

However, a mathematical method may also be tied to the control of a specific working system or process, and in this respect it can gain technical character.

In this instance, a mathematical method moves out of the exclusion zone and into the realm of being a patentable invention, and this provides formal clarification of the position that the EPO has always adopted.

So, are AI Inventions Truly Patentable?

This legal definition means that inventions involving AI and machine learning will always be patentable, so long as the relevant elements are used in the context of an operational or technical system or controls a specific process.

This places an onus on applicants to draft their proposal in great detail, whilst also ensuring that there’s sufficient data to explain the precise role of machine learning in their invention.

Without this, it will be almost impossible to successfully claim the necessary patent from the EPO, regardless of the precise potential that your invention holds.

To achieve this, you should consider working with a reputable legal firm such as Withers Worldwide.

This will help you to draft a concise and effective patent application, and one that has the best chance of succeeding with the EPO.