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Landmark UK High Court Judgement Expands Patent Protection for AI Technologies

European Patent Office / Nov 29, 2023

Written by Caleb Gilliam-Scott

In a groundbreaking decision, the England and Wales High Court has determined that a hardware artificial neural network, once it has completed its learning process, qualifies as a computer rather than software. Consequently, it is now eligible for patent protection. This landmark ruling is set to significantly impact the landscape of AI patentability.

The court’s decision avoids the exclusion that typically prevents the patenting of computer programs. It achieves this by categorizing AI as a bona fide computer rather than mere software. Furthermore, the judgment goes even further by asserting that even if it were considered a program, it would still be patentable because the AI’s functionality is inherently technical, regardless of its application in this particular case for music recommendations.

This ruling has far-reaching implications for the patenting of AI innovations and is expected to foster greater innovation in the field.

Emotional Perception AI Ltd. has successfully challenged a ruling by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). The case hinged on the distinction between a hardware artificial neural network (ANN) being classified as a computer or a computer program, a pivotal factor determining eligibility for certain patentability exclusions related to computer programs.

The High Court’s verdict departed from traditional approaches, delving into the nuanced realm of AI technology. Expert testimony emphasized the divergence between conventional computer programming and machine learning, particularly ANNs. The judgment concluded that a hardware ANN, in its frozen state after the learning process, qualifies as a computer rather than a computer program.

Furthermore, the judgment asserted that even if a computer program were involved, it would possess technical character, citing the improved recommendation message as a technical contribution. Notably, the selection of data and movement of that data outside the computer system, specifically music file recommendations, was deemed a technical effect, even if the music recommendation was subjective or never acted upon.

The implications of this decision could be far-reaching, paving the way for patent protection in previously uncharted territories, with potential applications extending to finance and other sectors. The judgment’s influence on patent applications, regulatory frameworks, and enhancing innovation and collaboration within the AI sector emphasizes the need for ongoing dialogue between the legal and AI communities.

Click here to read the court decision in Emotional Perception AI Ltd v. Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks.