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Significant Resources Directed to Patenting AI: How to Adapt to Current Environment

It should come as no surprise that AI-related US patent issuances grew more than 500% over a 5 year period from 2017-2021. At the same time, total US patent issuances remained relatively steady (from about 347,000 in 2017 to a high of about 399,000 in 2020, with a dip in 2021).

This growth reflects several trends and strategies converging:

  • AI hype shifting to reality as firms identify innovations that provide commercial value worthy of patent protection
  • AI being successfully integrated into specific applications across verticals including BioTech, FinTech, CleanTech, and Automotive
  • Foundational AI models becoming more robust through more training and use

This growth may also mean that the optimal point for filing for AI patent protection will come soon, when the USPTO's increasing fluency with AI technologies (which points towards more expedient patenting) versus the increasing number of prior art patents (which points towards more difficult patenting) reaches a balance. For companies looking to protect AI innovations going forward, it will become increasingly important to strategically identify what aspects of these innovations to protect so that resources are efficiently and effectively spent on patent portfolio development.

the number of AI-related patents issued has increased from 3,267 in 2017 to 18,753 in 2021. As of Nov. 2, the USPTO has issued 15,992 AI-related patents this year, according to a search of U.S. patents in Bloomberg Law’s Global Patent Database.