In a report of 12 March 2020 titled Digital technologies take top spot in European patent applications, the European Patent Office reports overall European patent applications were up by 4% in 2019 compared to 2018. Best performer in 2019 was digital communications with an almost 20% rise pushing medical technologies off the top filing technology spot for the first time since 2006.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has recently issued a report summarising IP facts and figures for 2018. For this blog, we’ve picked out some interesting statistics from the data on patents. Record numbers of patent applications are being filed 2018 saw the number of new patent applications being filed in a calendar year exceed 3.3 million for the first time. This is an increase of 5.2% over 2017 and it is the ninth straight annual increase.
The EPO has recently announced an increase to its official fees which will kick in on 1 April 2020. Most EPO official fees that are changing on 1 April 2020 are going up by about 4%. Fees relating to filing, search, examination, renewal, excess claims and opposition are all affected.
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).
So, it’s finally happening. At 11pm (UK time) tonight, 31 January 2020, the UK is leaving the EU – whether or not Big Ben bongs to ring out the changes. And what changes will there be on the IP front? The short answer, in the short term, is: absolutely none. EU law will continue to operate in the UK during the transition period, exactly as it currently does. The transition period will be from 1 February 2020 – 31 December 2020 unless an extension is obtained, which the Prime Minister has promised will not happen. The IP system will therefore continue as it currently does in the UK and the EU until at least the end of this year, without any disruption or changes.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has once again been in the news in the Intellectual Property world. Some of our previous insights have commented on AI innovation and in particular how different Patent Offices examine patentability of AI inventions. In short, AI inventions can in principle be patentable, but do have to meet the same criteria as patent applications in other fields. Patent Offices will examine all inventions following the law, case law and well established guidelines which seek to provide legal certainty for all users. However, the European Patent Office has just published its decision setting out the reasons for its refusal of two European patent applications in which an AI system was designated as inventor.
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.
In June 2019, the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office, Korean Intellectual Property Office), the China National Intellectual Property Administration and United States Patent and Trademark Office, collectively the “IP5”, launched a joint task force on New Emerging Technologies and Artificial Intelligence. The task force’s first meeting was held 15/16 January 2020 in Berlin, which the European Patent Office plan to develop into a centre of expertise on Artificial Intelligence. At the first meeting, the EPO Vice-President for Legal and International Affairs acknowledged the ubiquitous nature of artificial intelligence and other new emerging technologies and the challenges that presents in intellectual property.