Drug discovery is expensive. Computers are an important tool in combating this, because their computations can reduce the number of time-consuming physical tests needed. The use of computers in drug discovery is the subject of a great deal of research and we saw an example of this in the news last week when it was reported that a powerful new antibiotic had been discovered using artificial intelligence (see J. Stokes et al., “A Deep Learning Approach to Antibiotic Discovery”, Cell, vol. 180, no. 4, pp. 688-702.e13, 2020. Available: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.01.021, widely reported by the media).
Insights: EPO Guidelines
The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) gave a timely seminar on Artificial Intelligence on 9th January 2020. The speakers for this seminar were the head and senior examiner of the data processing group at the UK IPO.There were no real surprises that for AI inventions to be patentable they must fit around the exclusions (set out in Section 1(2) of the UK Patents Act) as interpreted by the guidelines (see below). However, the UK Examiner’s did indicate how the nature and/or presentation of the AI invention could lead to very different results, stressing that for borderline cases they are keen to engage with applicants and listen to technical arguments for patentability.The seminar follows a report released by the UK IPO into inventions relating to Artificial Intelligence released last year. See here for our earlier report.
The European Patent Office’s latest Guidelines for Examination entered into force on 1 November 2018. Applicants in the software fields sometimes find the EPO’s approach to examining computer implemented inventions (CIIs) confusing. The Guidelines for Examination can provide a helpful starting point for demystifying their methodology and determining how a given invention might be received by the EPO. Any changes to the Guidelines are therefore important to applicants in the software area.