Early stage companies are: innovating new artificial intelligence-based solutions, but they are often faced with the question of whether such technology can be protected and what the best strategy is to do so.
Without understanding how to protect their R&D investments and claim technology as property, startup companies are leaving a resource behind, potentially losing market share and investment.
The considerations below are helpful for companies trying to understand the opportunities to protect their innovation.
Artificial intelligence innovations are patentable
AI software is patentable and applicants are seeking protection at a remarkable pace. In 2000, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had received about 10,000 applications targeting artificial intelligence, and by 2020 that number reached about 80,000 applications, with 77% approved.
Despite some challenges related to types of software and business methods that are not eligible for patent protection, we have been obtaining patent protection for AI innovations for many years. In fact, the USPTO even issued eligibility guidelines that provided an example of training a neural network. Patentable innovations can relate to an improvement of a particular model, an implementation of a model, improved training or other aspects.
Disclosure of technology, whether planned at a conference or partner meeting, or unplanned and incidental, can result in loss of patent rights.
The USPTO characterizes AI innovation as encompassing the following component technologies: planning/control, knowledge processing, speech, AI hardware, evolutionary computation, natural language processing, machine learning, and vision.
If a company has an innovative feature that sets it apart from competitors, patent protection can be a valuable tool to gain a competitive advantage, perhaps even in conjunction with copyright and trade secret protection.
Direct patent coverage for detectable features
Patents can be useful in precluding others from making, using, selling or selling an infringing product or method. When we say that another company is infringing a patent, we look at the claims that determine ownership. If another company applies any element of a claim, that company is infringing.