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Could AI-generated inventions soon be patented in the UK?

With the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence technology, how are AI-generated inventions recognised when it comes to patents? Innovation funding and Patent Box experts ABGI UK look into where inventions created by AI systems currently stand in regards to intellectual property, and how potential changes will affect UK businesses…

As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly advanced, how is AI-generated innovation considered when it comes to intellectual property?

The issue is more pertinent than ever following the case earlier this year of Thaler v Comptroller General of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs. After Dr Stephem Thaler submitted two patents naming his AI machine “DABUS” as the inventor, the UK Intellectual Property Office withdrew the patents, citing that the machine did not meet the necessary criteria for an inventor. When taken to the UK Court of Appeal, the Court backed the IPO’s decision.

So why does the issue of AI in relation to patents continue to be a point of contention?

IPO Consultation is Launched: Can Artificial Intelligence Hold Ownership of New Patents?

In the conclusion of the case, the Court acknowledged that the law on inventorship continues to change and the Court remains open to further development. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) subsequently launched a consultation into the issue on the 29th of October, stating  that “Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasing role in both technical innovation and artistic creativity. Patents and copyright must provide the right incentives to AI development and innovation, while continuing to promote human creativity and innovation.” In other words, the government recognises that patent limitations on AI-generated inventions could hinder UK businesses and individuals, and is reviewing their treatment of AI in copyright and patents legislation to seek a balanced solution.

How Long Until the UK Names an AI System as Inventor on a Patent?

Concurrent to the investigation into patent protection for AI-devised inventions, the National AI Strategy was published this September, making the government’s ambition to become a global leader in artificial intelligence clear.

With the government keen to push AI and machine learning across UK industry sectors, the legal framework surrounding intellectual property rights such as patents could need to be adjusted to suit the changing scenario and reflect that the concept of “creations of the mind” may no longer apply exclusively to the inventions of humans.

Countries such as South Africa have recently granted successful patents to artificial intelligence systems; the recent IPO consultation confirms that the UK is determined not to be left behind in the technological race, and therefore changes to the UK Patents Act 1977 may occur sooner rather than later.

How Might This Change Impact Innovative UK Businesses?

One of the main ways in which a change in UK regulation regarding AI-held patents would positively impact UK businesses would be in regards to Patent Box eligibility.

The Patent Box regime was introduced in reaction to the relatively low number of patent applications submitted in the UK annually compared to many other countries, providing an incentive for UK companies to formalise the IP generated from UK-based R&D and commercialise their IP, repatriating the economic benefits back into the UK.

Aiming to increase the level of patenting of UK-developed IP and ensure that new and existing patents are developed in, manufactured and sold from the UK, the UK’s patent box regime is among the most favourable in the world. Profits earned from patents and intellectual property rights under the Patent Box regime benefit from a reduced tax rate of just 10%; with the imminent increase in the standard corporation tax rate in the UK from 19% to 25% in 2023, the tax advantage of Patent Box becomes even more significant.

If the change in legislation regarding AI-generated patents comes into effect, IP-protected AI innovation will also be eligible for Patent Box, creating the potential for huge savings on profits generated from AI-generated inventions.

UK companies should ensure all their intellectual property is structured to take advantage of Patent Box with immediate effect, including investigating AI creations for a potential shift in patent legislation – but what does this involve?

Get Ready For Change and Plan Ahead

  • Make sure you conduct IP reviews at regular intervals. For each element of IP considered for protection, establish a cost/benefit comparison to decide whether or not it’s worth protecting.
  • Review your R&D plans to establish whether any of your products, services or processes could be patented to receive the benefit of the Patent Box regime both now and in the case of a future reform.
  • Educate everyone involved in R&D about the importance of IP protection and the risks related to data leakage.
  • Keep a laboratory notebook recording R&D progress to prove precedence in the case of competing patent cases.
  • Look into Patent Box eligibility even if your patent is pending. Companies with pending patent applications can also qualify retrospectively for the 10% rate once the patent is granted, but the Company has to elect into the Scheme for the accounting period in which profits are generated. If companies are submitting patent applications to the UK IPO and inform the IPO that they are intending using the Patent Box scheme to improve the business benefits of the commercialisation, some patent attorneys believe the IPO will give the application preferential treatment and speed up the patent grant process – so by no means dismiss the idea of Patent Box eligibility until your patent is approved as it could mean missing out on enormous tax reductions.

How Can UK Businesses Elect into the Patent Box Scheme?

The idea behind Patent Box is simple enough, but electing into the scheme can be complex.

Getting advice from a specialist can ensure you’re making the most of the scheme, helping to provide clarity on areas such as the impact of your existing R&D on the calculation of relevant IP income, how to best manage tax benefits when combining R&D tax relief and Patent Box schemes, or on legislative changes and their impact on current or future patent box claims. Receiving guidance here will help identify key areas where new patent applications are needed and provide a clear patent strategy for the business moving forward in regards to areas of potential change such as patents from AI-generated innovation.

How Smart Technology is Helping the Manufacturing Industry

In the world of manufacturing, the way things are produced has changed dramatically over the years. From the first moving assembly line created, through to the modern-day invention of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s safe to say that manufacturing methods have evolved quickly.

The secret to this progression is advances in technology. Not only has it allowed businesses to speed up production and increase efficiency it has brought greater profit margins too. In today’s market, it’s all about ‘smart technology’ or more accurately ‘enablers’.

Businesses now use technology to optimise their operations — from automated sales and distribution processes to energy management software. Here’s a list of the benefits smart technology can bring.

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer science that can help the capabilities of humans. Voice recognition for example, allows processes to be carried out without being manually entered into a computer. AI also uses algorithms that can record and react to changes in data to help businesses achieve more and increase efficiency. 

Blockchain

Block chain is essentially a programme that helps keep track of goods, logs transactions and manages supply chains, following a ‘chain-like’ process. For businesses, this information is essential – allowing them to record data and deliver real-time analytics on their stock and supply chain without manual input. 

The Industrial Internet of Things 

The collection of data has now become a significant priority for businesses looking to gain a deeper insight into their production processes. With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), companies can ensure that every device, machine and process is connected through data communication systems. This gives them a greater understanding of their business and can look at ways of enhancing efficiencies and increasing profits. 

Industrial Robotics

An extension of AI, industrial robotics have now become a focal element of the manufacturing process. Modern robotics can now carry out a range of tasks, whilst reducing the risk of injury to workers. Although robotics is a modern invention, they’re intelligent enough to learn human tasks.

More recently ‘collaborative robots’ or ‘cobots’ have been designed to work together with humans. Cobots have become prominent in the automotive industries to help build vehicles. 

Digital Twin

Manufacturers can create a ‘digital twin’ when creating a new product — this allows them to virtually forecast its cost and production. Using this technology, they can evaluate production, visualise products in different environments, track and monitor systems and troubleshoot equipment. This results in a more streamlined development process. 

Condition monitoring

Broken or machinery that needs repair can have significant impact on production. With condition monitoring, businesses can monitor a range of performance conditions, including vibration, temperature, pressure and oil condition. This can help manufacturers prevent breakdowns in equipment by noticing changes and faults at an early stage.

Cyber security

The rise in technology means businesses are open to digital malfunction, including the risk of cyber-attacks — which have been common in several industries. Cyber security is important as it protects computer systems from theft or damage to their software and electronic data. As the manufacturing sector is the third most hit sector in the UK for cyber-attacks, companies to ensure they are adequately protected.

A ‘smart’ way of working

As ‘smart technology’ continues to improve the way manufacturers can do business, evidence suggests that introducing new methods can have a positive impact on a company’s output and profit margins. With energy at the heart of manufacturing processes, it’s important that energy supply is efficient and automated. If you’re switching from oil to gas, such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), speak to an expert for help with the process of becoming greener. 

82% of supply chain managers frustrated by AI systems during COVID-19 pandemic

82% of supply chain decision-makers have been left frustrated by AI-powered systems and tools during the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s according to Secondmind-commissioned independent global research, carried out by Censuswide, to survey over 500 supply chain planners and managers across Europe and the USA to learn how AI was helping or hindering their decision-making. 

The results show that despite the frustration, belief in AI’s potential is strong – 90% agree that AI-powered tools and software will help them make better decisions by 2025 and over half (59%) strongly agree that AI will transform supply chains for the better in the next five years.

The managers surveyed cited a number of factors hindering the ability of AI systems to deliver value, all of which fell into two categories:

  • Data: a lack of reliable data to feed into AI systems (37%), historic data becoming ‘meaningless’ in times of unprecedented change (19%) and the need to spend significantly more time on manually analysing and interpreting data (50%) were concerns at a time when accuracy and speed were of the essence.
  • Organisational: a third of respondents (34%) said their leadership teams lack an understanding of what is currently needed on the ground to make faster, data-driven decisions. Furthermore, rigid processes and internal structures prevented over two in five planners and managers from quickly responding to changing market conditions (41%).

The supply chain planners and managers surveyed believe that a third of their time (on average 2.83 hours daily) is spent on manual tasks that could easily be automated. As frustrations with current AI systems emerged during the pandemic, 50% said they spent significantly more time manually analysing and interpreting data to assist strategic and operational decisions.

The decision-makers surveyed stated these data pain points are holding them back from working on higher value initiatives that could contribute towards building more resilient supply chains, such as: 

  • Proactively preparing scenarios and plans for future unexpected ‘black swan’ events (30%)
  • Spending more time on proactive and in-depth planning for major events such as Christmas and Black Friday (41%)
  • Conducting more in-depth analysis, using their experience and expertise (51%)

The majority of managers who use AI systems want their domain expertise to factor into the decision-making process. Desirable capabilities for AI systems included: the ability to modify AI-generated forecasts using the decision-maker’s own judgement ( 53%), AI that can learn from humans when historic data is unreliable (47%) and AI that could show what data or contextual information that impacted a forecast (39%).

Of those who believed AI alone was not enough to inform effective decision-making, the reasons cited were that human intuition cannot be replicated by a machine (62%), there will always be some events that a machine can’t predict (59%) and expertise developed from years on the job is critical in decision-making (51%).

Vishal Chatrath, CEO and Co-Founder, Secondmind, said: “COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for businesses operating in global supply chains as they prepare to rapidly accelerate the implementation and deployment of AI in the coming years. For AI to realise its potential, it will be critical for organisations to deploy systems that can cope with sparse or incomplete data environments and promote the effective collaboration between people and AI. Our report shows how much people benefit from AI, but also how much AI needs people. A collaborative approach to decision-making that combines the right skills and capabilities for each task is essential, particularly when systems are disrupted during uncertain times and unpredictable events.”

Carrefour optimises supply chain with Artificial Intelligence

Carrefour has become the first French retailer to use artificial intelligence to optimise inventory management and reduce waste by integrating software developed by SAS into its supply chain.

Drawing on the €2 billion annual investment budget included in the “Carrefour 2022” transformation plan, mainly for IT and digital technology projects, Carrefour Supply Chain ultimately selected the Viya solution.

Following the completion of an 18-month trial, the SAS platform will be used to collect and process data from stores, warehouses and e-commerce websites to better predict demand and refine supplier orders. Carrefour says more intelligent supply chain management will ultimately reduce stock outages and overstocking in stores and warehouses.

The integration represents the first time an AI solution has been integrated into the supply chain for food products – and, shortly, non-food products – in the French retail sector.

SAS Viya provides Carrefour with a multi-channel distribution and inventory optimisation solution to reduce waste and create value. The aim of this far-reaching project is to create a unique online and physical environment in which recognised and loyal customers are guaranteed the most suitable offer anytime and anywhere.

AI will also enable people in new occupations – such as data scientists for data processing and demand planners for business expertise – to work in parallel on forward planning tasks. Optimising the work of the supply and planning teams, the SAS platform can process a variety of data from the Carrefour Supply Chain information system.

It will also make teams more agile by allowing them to integrate new working methods and continuously improve their forecasting processes. The SAS open AI solution will also offer Carrefour experts an opportunity to develop their own bespoke algorithms to meet their specific needs.

“The deployment of the SAS platform will help us turn the corner in optimising our supply chain,” said Franck Noël-Fontana, Forecast Director at Carrefour France. “By freeing up time for teams, artificial intelligence will allow them to focus on developing differentiated forecasting strategies and better meeting customer expectations while reducing waste.”

For its part, SAS will use its technological and business expertise to benefit Carrefour teams, supported by the solutions integration expertise of its long-standing partner Capgemini.

“Beyond the operational benefits of a fluid and efficient supply chain, this project will also improve the Carrefour customer experience,” said Boualem Alouache, Retail Director SAS France. “Based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, this Big Data project will optimise each step in the supply chain and increase customer satisfaction. We are proud to be driving the success of this project, with Capgemini’s support at the integration phase.”