Everything you wanted to know about AI patents, but were afraid to ask - part 2

The UK’s IPO recently released a report on worldwide AI patenting activity, which it combined with a deep dive into the local landscape and how it compares to other countries. The study complements WIPO’s Technology Trends paper which we analysed to produce a top 10 takeaways piece earlier in the year.

The data analysed for the UKIPO report was pulled from the EPO’s PATSTAT product. The dataset consists of over 160,000 patent applications and 85,000 patent families.

We’ve gone through all the numbers to bring you the top takeaways.

  1. China is closing in on the US to have the most AI patent applicationsAI Patent applicationsThe US is still home to the largest number of AI-related patent applications despite the exponential increase in filing activity in China. The two countries are leagues ahead of the rest. The importance of the PCT route is worth noting as it indicates that businesses consider these assets to be highly valuable.


  2. Growth in AI patent applications driven by China and the US AI Patent Applications countries

    China’s filing levels overtook the US in 2014 and it has since maintained a high growth rate. Chinese businesses typically seek domestic protection. Only 19% of applications first filed in China have family members elsewhere. To compare, the US recorded 53%. A testament to the importance of larger markets is seen in the UK’s stats, with 88% of patent applications filed in the UK having families elsewhere. It also shows that UK businesses are seeking to capitalise on their assets abroad.

  3. IBM has the largest AI portfolio, trailed by Microsoft

    Globally, IBM has the largest AI portfolio (by patent families). Although American companies take the top two spots, Asian businesses are highly represented in this list.top applicants

  4. BT Group is the number one UK-based applicant* Top UK applicants

    BT Group is the top UK player, with 86 AI-related patent families. The company has filed in a number of jurisdictions including the US, Germany, Canada and China. IBM and GE Aviation Systems, which both feature as some of the top applicants worldwide, appear in this list because of their UK-based subsidiaries.

    Magic Pony Technology, which was acquired by Twitter for $102 million in 2016, has a highly specialised AI portfolio. Larger companies have a smaller proportion of AI-related patents because their holdings are more diverse.  

  5. The US is the top priority for UK innovators*UK based applicant

    The US is the most important foreign jurisdiction for protection for British entities. UK-based patentees also file heavily through WIPO and the EPO. Filing levels at the CNIPA are relatively low. This is interesting considering that China is one of the most important AI markets.  

  6. US-based businesses are the top applicants at the UK’s IPO**Applicants at IPO

    US businesses have surpassed British applicants to be the top filers at the UK’s IP office. This is almost certainly because a large number of the top AI patent filers are from the US.

  7. AI-related patents are growing in importance Patent applications proportion

    AI-related technologies are accounting for an increasing proportion of patents filed globally. The US, UK and Australia have recently shown a sharp uptick in their AI-related patent filings relative to overall activity.

  8. The US has the highest level of AI specialisation RSI Worldwide

    The Relative Specialisation Index (RSI) shows the extent to which a country specialises in AI technologies compared to the global average. The US has the highest RSI which reflects the high number of AI-related patents filed there.

  9. Developments in AI are becoming more focusedIndustry

    The average number of application areas per patent family dropped from 1.8 to 1.5 between 2003 and 2017. This may indicate that developments in the space have become advanced, which means they are specific to particular application areas.

    Note: All the data in this article was sourced from Artificial Intelligence: A worldwide overview of AI patents and patenting by the UK AI sector.

    *UK Patent Landscape

    This data subset consists of 1,970 patent families, with 5,235 patent applications. It includes AI patent applications published by any IP office globally, for which PATSTAT has recorded an applicant or inventor with a GB country code.

    **GB Patents

    This section uses a subset that includes AI applications published by the IPO of the UK which were made by applicants or inventors from anywhere in the world. It includes 1,181 patent applications and 1,131 patent families.

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