Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous in nearly every industry. More than a buzzword, there are genuine applications of machine learning, analysis of large and diverse data sets, and automation of repetitive cognitive tasks across the global economy. Until recently, all computers were deaf and blind. AI has given computers the abilities to perceive, and is giving computers increased abilities to interpret and decide. Thus, we see innovation in AI extending well beyond software and information technology applications. AI tools and innovations are becoming critical in financial services, transportation, telecommunications, healthcare, retail channels, consumer products, and virtually every other industry.
Innovation in AI has accelerated dramatically over the past decade as computing power and data storage has become relatively cheap, the data available for analysis by machines has grown exponentially, and computer and data scientists have advanced deep learning and machine learning algorithms. Investments in AI are staggering – McKinsey Global Institute estimates investments have tripled in just the past few years and approached $40bn in 2016.
All of that innovation and investment have led to significant growth in patent applications and related intellectual property protection. Looking broadly across all art units at the USPTO, there have been over 25,000 patents issued with some connection to AI and its enabling technologies (e.g., machine learning, neural networks, expert systems, etc.) since 2000. And the pace of patenting is increasing – there were nearly 6,000 new AI related patent applications in the U.S in 2016 alone (the most recent year for which data is available). Similarly, the number of granted patents is growing impressively (from around 700 in 2012 to nearly 3,000 in 2016).
Patent applicants in the AI space face unique obstacles. First and foremost are challenges associated with subject-matter eligibility in a post-Alice environment, in which software patents have become more difficult to obtain. Similarly, there are potential challenges relating to nonobviousness and what the term ‘person with ordinary skill in the art’ means in the context of AI innovations. Finally, we will inevitably begin to face situations in which AI itself is seen as contributing to the process of invention.
Sterne Kessler understands what it takes to protect AI and AI-related innovations. Our team focuses on overcoming challenges associated with subject matter eligibility under Section 101 and on the optimal use of intellectual property to increase shareholder value. We apply an integrated approach to IP — working collaboratively to meet new challenges and providing the best advice and strategic counsel.
Finally, when disputes arise around intellectual property (patents, trademarks, trade secrets, etc.), Sterne Kessler brings a uniquely integrated and talented team to the table. Our trial and appeal team has the experience to help companies win – in district court, at the USITC, at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and at the Federal Circuit.