Monitoring trends in invention patenting may bring many benefits to businesses and entrepreneurs. One of them is the ability to foresee changes in the markets most relevant to them. This is a key success factor when it comes to taking on the competition.
By using information contained in patent literature correctly, companies can access highly valuable data that may be used to monitor competitors’ activities. It also enables them to keep up with in research and development trends as practised by other entities. This kind of information provides knowledge on which new technologies are seeing a sudden increase in the number of patent applications related to them. One such new technology currently under development is artificial intelligence.
At the beginning of 2019, the World Intellectual Property Organization published a report entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence’. The report presents technological trends in the area of AI-related solutions, which can be predicted by analyzing patent applications submissions. The report was compiled using data collected from nearly 100 patent offices from around the world.
Trends in AI
Analysis of AI patenting trends shows that the largest number of applications filed in this area are related to machine learning. Between 2013 and 2016 there was a 28% increase in the number of such applications. It is also noteworthy that these solutions account for 40% of all applications related to AI. At the same period, solutions related to fuzzy logic rose by 16% and those related to programming by 19%. The main functional application mentioned by the leading companies in their patent submissions is computer-assisted image processing, although IBM places more emphasis on natural language processing.
Since 2014, the largest number of patent applications have been made in China, followed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office. The applications submitted to those offices make up 78% of all AI-related applications.
The geographical scope of submitted applications shows the scale of their commercialization potential. If we look at the data regarding the geographical expansion, we will see that only 9% of the inventions are protected in five or more jurisdictions, in comparison to only 0.6% of them in ten jurisdictions or more.
Of the top 30 entities in terms of the number of applications, only four are universities or public research centres. The remaining applicants include companies from such sectors as functional electronics, telecommunications and/or software, as well as energy and car manufacturing. The companies that lead the way in the number of applications are IBM with more than 8,000 applications and Microsoft with nearly 6,000 applications.
An interesting fact here is that shared rights ownership is quite rare. Among the top market players, patent applications made jointly with other entities account for less than 1% of the applications portfolio in this technological area. This means that companies are largely developing new technological solutions alone and are not cooperating with other – perhaps competitive – businesses.
Bearing in mind that AI is a very dynamically developing sector and that more than half of the companies in the industry have changed their owners in the last three years, we may expect many interesting disputes in this area in the future, not unlike the already legendary Samsung vs Apple clash (the so-called Patent Wars).