Impact of AI on patent system explored at EPO digital event

18 December 2020

The role of patents in an AI driven world

The European Patent Office (EPO) conference "The role of patents in an AI driven world" came to a conclusion today. The two-day online event provided a platform to discuss artificial intelligence (AI), its impact on intellectual property (IP), and the potential benefits it could bring to patent offices. It was the second major online conference hosted in the last half of 2020 by the Office following the mid-year additive manufacturing event. Over the course of two days, the event drew more than 3 000 viewers coming from over 70 countries from Europe and beyond. 

António Campinos, EPO President, opened proceedings in a discussion with moderator Aliki Nichogiannopoulou, EPO Operational Director at the EPO. They discussed the role of AI in the patent world, its challenges and opportunities, as well as AI's impact on the IP strategy, with the President underling that "The EPO is discussing AI patenting with our contracting states and in the IP5. Users rightly expect a consistent and harmonised approach, and we'll play a leading role in that," said EPO President António Campinos.

Over two days, policymakers, investors, inventors, SMEs, academics, and IP professionals enjoyed a series of presentations on AI and IP rights. Several speakers explored the use of AI as a tool to enhance the efficiency of the patent grant process in classification and search. The presentation "From patent to business success" was dedicated to start-ups and SMEs and looked at the positive impact IP rights can bring to smaller businesses. Conference delegates were also introduced to the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), an academic initiative that promotes research in AI and aims to help boost economic growth. Also, to that extent, the EPO is preparing an MoU with ELLIS that will be signed in 2021.

The conference also discussed the importance of building awareness when it comes to both the opportunities and risks of AI. Xavier Seuba, Director of the European Patent Academy debated with professors Berndt Hugenholtz and Jean-Marc Deltorn on how to develop the right training material on the topic of AI. They shared their expert knowledge and insights from targeted education programmes on AI and IP.

EPO Chief Economist Yann Ménière presented the findings from the new study Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution - the global technology trends enabling the data-driven economy. This recently launched study found that nearly 40 000 new international patent families (IPFs) were filed for these technologies in 2018 alone, accounting for more than 10% of all patenting activity worldwide that year. In his presentation, Ménière also noted that the pace of global Innovation in 4IR technologies accelerated strongly during the last decade, with an average annual growth rate in patenting close to 20% from 2010 to 2018, compared with 12.8% between 2000 and 2009.

The event concluded with a panel discussion on innovation and the European AI strategy, following the recent major AI initiatives in the European Commission and European Parliament, and explored the implementation of a human-centric approach to these initiatives. The panellists shared view on how to help innovation thrive in Europe while trying to address the most pressing question of data ownership and the policy changes that aim to foster innovation in Europe's economy.

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