The advancement of Artificial Intelligence has scope to improve efficiency and processes in practically every industry and IP is no exception. In this article we review some of the ways in which AI could be used in the field of IP to help IP rights holders and IP lawyers alike.
In the trade mark field, AI is already starting to make its mark with both WIPO and the EU IPO claiming to offer AI powered search functions which use more sophisticated image search recognition software to make searches of the register for image marks more effective than we have previously experienced. The expansion of AI into other areas of the trade mark clearance and registration process has potential to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs for trade mark owners.
AI software could be developed to assist trade mark owners as early as the brand creation stage. The benefits at this stage are potentially significant and it is plausible to imagine the possibility of, and commercial demand for AI software which could assist with:
AI software which could perform the functions above would potentially save significant time and costs for trade mark owners by providing quick and accurate information relating to clearance of new marks at a very early stage. This software could have particular advantages for Applicants preparing specifications for a worldwide filing program using the International trade mark system by providing insights which would allow Attorney’s to prepare trade mark specifications to reduce the number of anticipated objections whilst maintain as broad a scope of protection as possible.
Similar software could also be used to improve the trade mark examination process by automating examination of trade mark applications. As well as reducing the time and costs associated with trade mark examination, this would also ensure consistency in decision making of Examiners within each Trade Marks Office.
The possibilities exist throughout the life cycle of a trade mark from simple processes such as automatic renewals or recordals (see below re. smart contracts) to more complex issued such as evidence. Imagine the time and cost which could be saved by the use of AI to collect and store evidence of use of a trade mark over time so that when it was needed to enforce rights or defend a cancellation action the evidence is already collated and accessible.
The rise of the counterfeit goods market is an ongoing problem for all IP rights holders and AI powered solutions are already making their mark in the detection of counterfeit goods. The potential uses of AI in this field are varied and could have a far reaching impact. Some examples of AI already being used in the battle against counterfeits include:
A smart contract is a computer coded contract which is self-executing and makes use of blockchain technology. Smart contracts are still in relatively early development but interest has been high due to the significant impact they could have on efficiency of processes across a wide range of industries. IP is no exception and it is foreseeable that one day smart contracts could be used in relation to the transfer of IP assets. The terms of the contract would be encoded such that legal transfer of ownership of IP would occur upon a particular event or criteria being met. E.g. transfer of the IP occurs immediately upon a specified amount of money being pad from Assignee to Assignor. AI has the potential to interact with this contracts to analyse data to determine when the relevant even has occurred and then make use of the security provided by blockchain technology to change the ownership of the IP on the relevant trade mark registers. This would essentially remove the need for human intervention entirely once the legal contract has been executed thus reducing the administrative burden and consequently reducing costs and improving efficiency in the recordal of IP asset transfers. Whilst there is a long way to go before the legal issues surrounding smart contracts are clear, their potential benefits are immediately obvious.
One of the main areas where AI is being used in the IP industry is patent searching. For example, the European Patent Office (EPO) uses AI for prior art searching where the AI can be used to review incoming patent documents and identify statistical similarities between patent documents already on databases. AI tools can review vast amounts of data in short amounts of time and lend themselves well to prior art searching where millions of documents may be contained in databases. More advanced solutions include natural language search tools that allow users to input natural language terms that can be understood by an AI tool which retrieves similar documents. As well as prior art searches, such tools can be used to identify potential patent infringements.
The EPO also uses AI to pre-classify incoming patent applications to technical areas such that the cases are assigned to the correct examination directorate that handle applications in the specific technical area. Intelligent machine translation tool Patent Translate is used by the EPO to allow for translation of patent publications that are in 32 languages into the EPO official languages of English, French and German. The UKIPO is also using AI solutions for prior art searching and patent classification.
With the potential of AI – can it help patent owners and practitioners in other ways? A key part of the patent process is patent drafting and at least one solution provider has been awarded a US patent for an automatic patent drafting solution. The patent issued as US 10,417,341 to Specifio, Inc. is entitled “Systems and Methods for Using Machine Learning and Rules-Based Algorithms to Create a Patent Specification Based on Human-Provided Patent Claims Such That the Patent Specification Is Created Without Human Intervention”. The related product uses natural language processing to allow a few attorney-written pages about an invention such as the patent claims to be converted into a first-draft patent application. Interestingly, the patent was apparently auto-generated using the technology that is disclosed in the patent. There are likely to be many AI solutions that can lead to efficiency and cost reductions for patent owners It is expected that automation and AI in the patent field will continue to grow.