The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing industries worldwide and transforming the way we live and work. As AI continues to grow in popularity, a fascinating trend is emerging in parallel: an increase in AI patent applications.
Patent applications are strong indicators of where businesses see future innovation and technological value moving in their industries. Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of patent applications related to AI and machine learning (ML) technologies.
Our recent analysis of Google search trends over the past two years (November 2021-2023) shows a 367% increase in searches related to AI patenting. Additionally, our analysis of US patent filing records shows that the appearance of terms like “machine learning” in public patent applications has grown from 5,500 times in 2011 to over 100,000 occurrences in patent offices worldwide in 2021 d. Likewise, in 2011, the term “artificial intelligence” appeared in public patent applications over 5,000 times, and by 2021, this term will appear over 100,000 times.
A review of pending applications reveals AI-related patents that seek to cover a host of emerging technologies. For example, the autonomous and electric vehicle industry is working to master AI systems that help navigate complex road environments, make real-time decisions, and ensure safe and efficient transportation.
Similarly, the pharmaceutical industry is using AI to improve diagnostics, drug discovery and patient care. AI algorithms analyze vast amounts of medical data, including patient records, scanned images and genomic information, to aid in disease diagnosis, treatment planning and personalized medicine.
AI systems are being developed for use by banks, financial institutions and fintech companies. According to The Economist, a 2022 survey of banking IT executives found that 85% had a “clear strategy” for “adopting AI in the development of new products and services,” while a 2023 Forbes survey found that a third of respondents C-suite executives are already seeing “tangible gains” from the use of AI in their organizations. AI-related patents in this area cover everything from actuarial tasks to automating asset management, blockchain, cryptocurrency, insurance, robo-advisors and securing digital transactions.
In the music industry, the enhancement of instrumentalization and music generation are AI tools that have helped artists in this field – but there are also numerous cases of images and voices of artists that have been reproduced using AI technology. Most famously, several AI-generated songs have appeared on social media platforms purportedly created by artist Drake.
Then, in our analysis of the relevant AI data from 2000 to 2023, we noticed that there was also a ‘boom’ pattern where there were large increases in overall investment in AI patents followed by ‘crashes’. in which the growth in the number of new AI patent applications slows (though rarely declines) for some time before the next boom phase. For example, after the boom in AI patents from 2000 to 2002, the boom continued until the financial crisis of 2008, which was again followed by aggressive growth from 2010 to 2015.
Given our current analysis and the findings above, we note that there are actions that any enterprise can take to ensure that it is better positioned for the impact of AI technologies:
- Organize your data. All current AIs rely on pattern recognition to make predictions based on past examples. For a company to make effective use of future AI advances, the organization and storage of data is of utmost importance.
- Identify and prioritize the aspects of your business that require creativity or a personal connection. Creativity and personal connections are aspects that, at least in the near future, AI cannot completely replace, so they will eventually become the “core” elements to differentiate your brand, products and services.
- Plan how your enterprise will adopt AI. Do you plan to develop your own AI tools (and seek to establish IP around those AI tools)? Or do you plan to license tools created by others?
The recent surge in AI popularity has had a profound impact on innovation and intellectual property, making it critical for businesses to understand the relationship between AI and increased competition if they are to successfully protect the value of their unique and impactful innovations. Given the pace of development and use of AI systems in nearly every industry, we expect to see continued and intense interest over the next five years in patenting AI systems for a myriad of consumer and industry-focused applications.
* The authors would like to thank Venable’s technical advisor and patent agent Timothy J. Macdonald for his assistance in the preparation of this article.