The impact of the pandemic on EV and AV R&D is forcing technologists to navigate the lingering uncertainty surrounding the patenting of AI technology. By Chethan Srinivasa
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has had an impact on the automotive industry, including research and development of electric and autonomous (E / AV) vehicles. E / AV companies have laid off workers, delayed testing and postponed the launch of vehicles. Also during this period, uncertainty persisted around the patenting of AI technology, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) sought public comment on the impact of AI on laws on the Internet. Intellectual property. Despite the negative impacts of the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding AI patents, E / AV companies have continued to innovate at a breakneck pace and leverage their patent portfolios to secure significant funding in the middle. of the pandemic.
For example, audiovisual companies have applied their technology to solve unique problems posed by the pandemic. Some companies deployed VAs to deliver medical supplies, food and packages. Others have deployed antivirus to disinfect areas and formed partnerships to accelerate the development of antivirus technology to mitigate the spread of the virus. Some companies reoriented their technology to help with various efforts, including charity deliveries. Robotaxi services were deployed to provide an alternative transportation system for people, and were modified to provide temperature measurement and take disinfection measurements. In another example, using a software patch configured to vehicle self-sterilization, a company was able to disinfect its fleet of vehicles.
As E / AV companies increasingly exploit AI-related inventions to perform a wide range of tasks, such as image recognition, autonomous navigation, obstacle avoidance, battery, etc., the uncertainty surrounding the patenting of AI-related inventions which may be deemed ineligible ideas may pose challenges for the constitution of a coherent patent portfolio
To set themselves apart from their peers and attract investors during the pandemic, E / AV companies can leverage their patent portfolios to highlight their proprietary innovations and strong research and development pipeline. The following graph overlays the number of patent filings / month (according to the USPTO public patent database) with funding events (according to CrunchBase) in September 2020 for a well-funded illustrative E / AV business that raised funds during the pandemic.
In January 2017, the LiDAR sensor company Ouster filed ten patents along with its first fundraising event for US $ 3 million. Ouster continued with two months of filing eight patent applications per month until its next US $ 27 million fundraising event in December 2017. Again, Ouster continued its patent program by filing 17, 14 and 11 patent applications in May 2018, July 2018, and December 2018, respectively, which was followed by its largest funding event of $ 60 million in March 2019, and an additional $ 45 million during the September 2020 pandemic.
The idea of a coherent and deliberate patent program can help attract investors or lead to a larger increase. However, as E / AV companies increasingly exploit AI-related inventions to perform a wide range of tasks, such as image recognition, autonomous navigation, obstacle avoidance, battery management, etc., the uncertainty surrounding the patenting of AI-related inventions which may be considered ineligible abstract ideas can pose challenges for the coherent constitution of a patent portfolio.
In October 2020, the USPTO issued a report titled “Public Opinion on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy”, summarizing comments received regarding patent policy issues for AI technologies, including the ability of current US patent laws to determine whether inventions, including an application of AI, are eligible for patent protection, and whether inventions “made” by AI are eligible for patent protection.
To set themselves apart from their peers and attract investors during the pandemic, E / AV companies can leverage their patent portfolios to highlight their proprietary innovations and strong research and development pipeline.
According to the report, the current state of the art is limited to “narrow” AI systems that perform individual tasks in well-defined areas (eg, image recognition), as opposed to general artificial intelligence. (AGI) similar to that possessed by humanity. . The majority of commentators agreed that, since narrow artificial intelligence can be viewed as a subset of computer-implemented inventions, current USPTO guidance on eligibility of patent subject matter is applicable and does not apply. should not be treated any differently from other computer-implemented inventions. Thus, AI inventions should be considered patent eligible and meet USPTO patent laws if the invention is described in sufficient detail, including hardware and software components, to show that the inventor possessed the full scope of the claimed invention.
Although the pandemic has negatively impacted many industries, E / AV companies have continued to innovate and achieve their business goals using a consistent and strategic approach to patenting E / AV technology leveraging AI. narrow. Patent applications typically don’t become public until 18 months after filing, so Figure 1 likely represents patent filings in February 2019.
About the Author: Chethan Srinivasa is Senior Partner and Intellectual Property Lawyer at Foley & Lardner