It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one to hear that investment in Artificial Intelligence has risen sharply over the last few years. This is supported by a recent report published by the UKIPO indicating the patent filing trends in this sector.
The report shows that AI-related technologies account for an increasing proportion of the patent applications filed each year. And although the US has the highest proportion of AI patent applications (relative to total patent application filed in that country per year), the UK comes in a very respectable second place. This suggests a particular specialism emerging within these countries in this sector.
Interestingly the top applicants within the UK include several oil and gas companies, and the leading UK-based applicant is the BT Group. This shows the pervasiveness of AI research outside of Silicon Roundabout and into more traditional companies contemplating how to evolve. It may also be a reflection of the fact that many of the patentable innovations relating to AI are in the application of this technology to solve problems in industry, rather than the algorithmic techniques underpinning these advances.
The report acknowledges the difficulties in defining AI patents when conducting a search, not least because no universally accepted definition of AI exists. The approach taken in the report was therefore to seek a representative cross-section of patents that each have a high presumption of relating to AI. This was done by retrieving an initial set of patents that are classified in areas that relate specifically to the development of AI techniques or to the use of specific AI techniques. To avoid excluding AI patents unnecessarily, the initial set was combined with a set of patents whose abstract contains any keyword which is considered to relate specifically to AI. In practice this approach may overestimate the filings in this sector, which casts some doubt on the veracity of any conclusions drawn. However, the upward trends shown are consistent with another more detailed report published by WIPO earlier this year. The WIPO report further notes that the vast majority of acquired companies in the field of AI are located in the US (the US having 283 acquired companies), while the UK ranks again second (at 25 acquired companies). There is unquestionably a gulf between first and second place, however there is enough good news here for the UKIPO to bang its drum to, as well as the wider UK research community in AI.
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