The German Patent and Trade Mark Office published statistics on AI patent applications in Germany on the occasion of its annual DPMA User Forum conference. The analysis of the last five years shows that the USA are by far leading, Germany is still in the midfield, and China tripled its patent applications in DE during this period.
The main drivers of patent applications are key technologies in traffic, robotics and medical technology. Applications for automated driving, in particular, have been very dynamic over the last 10 years: from 327 patent applications in traffic and vehicle technology in 2009, applications have risen to 966 in 2018.
In robotics and in general control engineering, the growth is even greater, although the number of applications is significantly lower in absolute terms, the DPMA reported.
Patents in the field of computers and AI
However, the absolute majority of AI patent applications since 2009 have always been in the field of computer technology. There had been 1 539 applications in this area in 2018. This development is no surprise, because algorithms and computer-controlled procedures are essential for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (Iot).
Despite this development in Europe and Germany, it is not easy under patent law to protect inventions in the field of computer technology and software. We already gave an overview of this last year when the Christie’s auction house auctioned off an artwork created by an algorithm for more than 400,000 dollars ( Artificial intelligence creates art – patentable?). In this blog post we also refer to the current guidelines of the European Patent Office, the “Guideline: Artificial intelligence and machine learning” and “Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
USA top, Germany and Japan midfield
The USA is by far the leading country in terms of the number of AI patent applications filed in Germany. A total of 36.2 % of all AI patent applications from the DPMA analysis came from the USA in 2018. Germany filed 18.1% of the patents in the same period, Japan 13.3% and China 5.2%. Germany’s direct neighbours filed significantly fewer patents for KI in Germany: 3.3% of the applications came from France, 2.9% from the Netherlands.
Evaluation of IPC classes
The statistics of the DPMA are based on an evaluation of the IPC classes carried out in March 2019. The analysis focused on the IPC classes in the technical field and there mainly applications with reference to Artificial Intelligence. The DPMA itself points out that there is no generally applicable definition for the classification of patent documents as artificial intelligence. There is also no IPC class that deals exclusively with artificial intelligence. A clear differentiation from other technical areas is therefore not possible.
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