The UK IP office has published a report on AI patenting trends – both worldwide and in the UK. The report provides food for thought, not only for businesses with an existing AI arm but also for those looking to acquire an AI target as part of their own digital transformation.

The report reveals that patenting by UK-based inventors and applicants has more than doubled in the past decade - although those based in the US, Japan, Korea, China and Germany are still more active. In terms of country of protection, since 2014, China has seen more AI patent applications each year than the US (but fewer than one in five of these is pursued outside China).

Worldwide, the most prolific AI patent filers include IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Google and Siemens. The most active UK-based filers include BT, IBM UK, BAE and Oxford University. 

There’s been recent growth worldwide in the number of patents relating to biology-inspired techniques, for example:

  • neural networks, which emulate the workings of the brain;
  • genetic algorithms - search techniques based on the theory of evolution and natural selection; and
  • particle swarm optimisation – a technique for solving problems inspired by the social behaviour of bird-flocking or fish-schooling.

Areas where the UK has seen a particular rise in AI patenting include image processing, telecoms and transport (possibly reflecting the growing UK market for autonomous vehicles).

Almost 90% of AI patents first filed in the UK are also filed abroad, whereas the numbers are much lower for the US and China. This reflects market size and scope of patent eligibility, but also the worldwide importance of AI patents filed in the UK.

The report concludes that IP protection for AI will become increasingly important as AI becomes more embedded into our daily lives.

For further information on AI –including IP protection – click here.