Metro Detroit patent attorney Nick Drysdale lends his insights to a new article from World Intellectual Property Review that discusses a recent study that claims China has filed more patent applications for AI technology than the U.S.
Part of China’s lead, however, may be due to the high filing rate of Chinese universities. Many of these universities incentivize or encourage their students to file for patents, hence the higher numbers.
Many of the technologies behind these filings, however, may not necessarily translate to viable products or service in the future. Drysdale likens universities to “think tanks” that are more interested in protecting more futuristic ideas than creating market-ready products. As AI is in its early stages, there are still more ideas and theoretical applications than proven, patent-eligible technologies.
Companies, on the other hand, generally invest in products that are more likely to bring in revenue. This means that Chinese companies may have significantly lower filing rates for AI technology than their university counterparts.
U.S. companies are also outpacing Chinese companies, due in large part to the size of software giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google versus competitors like Alibaba.
Many people still wonder what will happen when these technologies obtain patent status. A single AI patent has the potential to cross into many technology areas, for example, and is therefore full of licensing opportunities. A wise inventor will find a way to make the technology work for multiple applications.
In regard to litigation, Drysdale suggests that the litigation landscape is harder to gauge. “The heightened perceived value of AI tech could cause an increase in litigation,” he says. “The usual questions about validity and enforceability (e.g., under 35 USC 101), however, may cause patent holders to try to avoid litigation. Also, patent owners may find it difficult to detect infringement due to the software nature of [AI] tech. If infringement is difficult or impossible to detect, I would expect litigation filings to be lower.”
For U.S. businesses that are on the fence about filing for patent protection, Drysdale says “Companies of all sizes would be wise to at least consider patent application filings in this space. Even if a company fails to obtain a patent, the defensive benefit of publication still remains.”