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Patent Protection on AI Inventions

In recent years, AI patent activity has exponentially increased. The figure below shows the volume of public AI patent applications categorized by AI component in the U.S. from 1990-2018. The eight AI components in FIG. 1 are defined in an article published in 2020 by the USPTO. Most of the AI components have experienced explosive growth in the past decade, especially in the areas of planning/control and knowledge processing (e.g., using big data in automated systems).

Figure 1. AI patent activities by year

AI technology is complex and includes different parts across different fields. Inventors and patent attorneys often face the challenge of effectively protecting new AI technology development. The rule of thumb is to focus the patent protection on what the inventors improve over the conventional technology. However, inventors often need to improve various aspects of an existing AI system to make it fit and work for their applications. In the following sections, we will discuss an illustrative list of subject areas that may offer patentable AI inventions.

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