How to get IP protection for AI


In this day and age, it is difficult to get lost anywhere in the world, thanks to location services such as Google Maps. But are you aware that these services run on Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

AI has become a household name as the technology has permeated our lives forever through wide-ranging applications. Today, AI finds application in almost all walks of life including healthcare, automotive and education sectors.

With AI creating ripples across sectors around the world, the question of protecting the proprietorship of the technology becomes paramount. However, no single definition exists for Artificial intelligence. Definitions are as wide-ranging as the applications of the technology itself. So then how do we protect something that can’t be defined?

Broadly speaking, AI is the technology of building machines or enabling existing machines to act ‘intelligently’, as the human mind would. Given the complexity of such inventions, several questions arise when talking about artificial intelligence patents. For instance: who owns AI? Can algorithms be patented? Do Indian laws cover AI-backed technology. In this blog, we will attempt to answer these questions for you.

Before moving further, here’s a refresher on what Artificial Intelligence means.

What is artificial intelligence?

Niti Aayog, a policy think tank of the government of India, says that AI might be the single largest technology revolution of our times, with the potential to disrupt all aspects of human existence. In its bid to draw up a National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, the Aayog released a special report in 2018.

In the report, AI is defined as the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making. In simple terms, it is a branch of computer science that aids in building intelligent machines that can mimic the human mind. It works on a system of complex algorithms, commonly known as codes.

AI encompasses a wide range of technologies that are aimed at solving difficult as well as day-to-day problems. You may even have heard of machine learning; the technology of teaching a machine to learn and improve from its own experience. Machine learning is one of the most commonly used forms of AI technology.

What are artificial intelligence patents?

copyright-patenttrademarkIf you are an innovator, you probably already know the importance of patents. Patents protect your invention from being duplicated or misused commercially.

Since artificial intelligence is a relatively new field of technology, there is very little known to innovators about artificial intelligence patents. To make matters worse, there isn’t a lot of existing literature or legislation answering the big question: “can AI-backed technology be patented?”

The good news is, yes, they can be. In order to understand how artificial intelligence patents work, you need to understand how artificial intelligence works.

Artificial intelligence and patenting laws

As explained earlier, behind every AI-based innovation is a network of algorithms. Often, when an innovator comes up with a new AI-based technology, in truth, the innovator has worked out a series of complex algorithms to make the system work. At times there are multiple inventions involved to create a new technology.

Therefore the more important question is: “Can algorithms be patented?” Unfortunately, the Indian Patents Act, 1970, does not recognise algorithms as patentable entities. So, innovators have found a way around it.

In 2017, the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks laid down guidelines for patenting Computer-Related Inventions (CRIs). These guidelines are applicable to inventions that are based on computers, algorithms or software.

In short, even if you can’t patent an algorithm, you can still file a patent for your invention. How you ask? The secret lies in the wording while drafting an application.

Here’s all you need to know about applying for an artificial intelligence patent

The key to a good patent application for an AI-backed technology is the technical specifications. The clearer you are in your application about the function of your invention, who owns the invention and what the technical specifications are, the higher are your chances of success.

  1. Study hard: The first and most important step while applying for an artificial intelligence patent is research. Dig up previous patent applications in related subjects by your contemporaries. Learn what worked for them and what didn’t. This will help you draft a meticulous application. It will also serve you well to read up on the latest regulations around the world regarding artificial intelligence patents.
  2. Define the owner of the technology: This may appear as a foolish job but is actually of great significance. As technology advances and algorithms evolve, the machine or the system starts learning from experience. In such cases, very little human intervention may be required going forward. Then, there arises an ambiguity as to who owns the technology, the man or the machine? Remember that patents are granted to natural persons. For the purposes of patent, be clear in the application that you are the inventor. In the past, applications suggesting that machine learning patent be granted to AI have been rejected outright, simply because patents are currently granted to humans and not machines.
  3. Focus on functionality: Your chances for patent improves fairly if you focus on the applicability of the invention. Instead of seeking a patent for the algorithm or codes, aim for the process on which the invention or the device works. Owing to a lack of regulations in the field of artificial intelligence patents and machine learning patents, your chances of getting a patent diminish if your application is about these technologies. Your application should mentions algorithms in conjunction with the hardware used and the problem the technology will solve.

Current laws have a lot to catch up on when it comes to artificial intelligence patents. This poses you, the inventor, with a challenging task—to look for that wiggle room in the legislature to get a successful patent. There’s no harm in seeking professional help for drafting your application.

Final note: Don’t be disheartened by the challenges in filing for artificial intelligence patents. It may be a long-drawn process but it’s certainly not as difficult as coming up with technologies that solve problems of the world. With a little bit of preparation and assiduity, you can taste success.


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