Patents related to Artificial Intelligence in the European Patents Office

It is manifest the growing interest of mankind in disruptive themes as Artificial Intelligence (AI). As we have been analyzing, this theme has increased its significance as the inventions reach new and inspiring outcomes. This article intends to analyze if there have been a growing tendency on patent applications related to AI in the European Patents Office or if, besides all the euphoria, we are still far away from a technological boom particulary inventive. Throughout the article, we will analyze some graphics and charts so we can draw some conclusions about the technological advance involving AI.


Research Methodology

Before we proceed, we need to pay attention to our research methodology which was based on the following topics:

  1. Search in the Espacenet patent database of European patent applications containing at least one subgroup of the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) mentioned in chart 1 and published from 2010 to 2018;

  2. Exportation of the results containing the European patent application publication numbers to the EP Bulletin Search and EP Full-Text Search databases;
  3. Use of the EP Bulletin Search and EP Full-Text Search statistical tools to obtain the results shown in Figures 1 and 2 and Tables 2 and 3.


Table 1: CPC subgroups that refers to Artificial Intelligence


Number of applications vs Applicants

Data retract allowed to check an exponencial raise on the European patent applications number since the year 2000, having its peak been observed on 2016, according to the Figure 1 below.

 Figure 1: European patent applications for the subgroups of selected CPCs trends


Although, it is expectable that the number from 2017 and 2018 reaches a superior quantity, due to the fact that there are still applications in secrecy that were not made public through its publication.

Between 2010 and 2018 were requested 2026 patent applications related to AI. From this total, 57 were refused, 208 granted, and 1666 are still pending decision (see picture 2 below).


Picure 2: Current stage of European patent applications, published from 2010 to 2018, for the selected CPC subgroups


It may be verified that exists a high quantity of pending applications, which is justifiable, for the evident growing of applications on the years of 2015/16. It could also be find that the average time for the applicants to be informed of the intention to grant its application is 1475 days, approximately 4 years (Table 3).


Table 3: Time interval for the beginning of the substantive exame and for the communication of concession intention


It would not be surprising even if big multinationals dominate the quantity of applications related to AI. According to Figure 2 below, Qualcomm has on its portfolio 113 applications, followed by Google (if we put together LLC with INC) and INTEL with 99 applications. Curiously, Apple does not figure on top 30, unlike Samsung and Huawei.


Figure 2: Main applicants on the European Patent Office for the selected CPC subgroups

From the collected sample, it is manifest that there has been an increase of the AI related patent applications. Although the numbers are not astronomically surprising, it is possible to verify that exists a tendency for them to multiply. The main technological players continue to bet on this inventive area, so it is presumable that in a medium-long term there will be huge disputs involving IP assets related to Artificial Intelligence.

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