28 January 2020

IP trends for 2020: AI

In the final article of our ‘IP trends for 2020’ series, we look at how developments in artificial intelligence will impact and disrupt the tech sector.

2019 marked another year of continued venture in the fields of AI, ML and Big Data, with standout developments such as the first anniversary of the UK Government’s AI Sector Deal, with an updated policy paper and the appointment of an AI Council (see here), and the UK Health Secretary’s announcement of a £250 million investment in AI to create a new National Artificial Intelligence Lab “to improve health and lives of patients” (click here).

Looking to the year ahead, AI continues to dominate the horizon for blue-sky businesses, notably, as touched on in our previous IP trends article on personalised medicine, with the use of AI in the provision of healthcare and development of health tech.

In particular, AI in health tech, bioinformatics and the development of technology that brings powerful AI algorithms to bear in diagnosis and treatment, is a particular trend that we at Mathys & Squire are seeing and expect to see more of as 2020 progresses.

As evidence of this, and at the time of writing, BBC News has recently published an article entitled: ‘AI “outperforms” doctors diagnosing breast cancer’, which describes a study conducted by Google Health and Imperial College London, published in the journal Nature, which evaluates the use of an AI system in breast cancer screening and found it to be just as effective as clinicians in spotting the disease (see study here).

Of course the use of AI is not limited solely to health tech. AI seems to be disrupting all fields of technology. Other AI trends we expect to see in 2020 include AI’s increasing role in the development and proliferation of autonomous vehicles and self-driving cars (e.g. Toyota’s recent announcement of its 175 acre ‘fully connected ecosystem’ to be built at the base of Mount Fuji, titled the ‘city of the future’ – read more here); the use of AI in emerging and evolving 5G networks; and the continuation of AI augmenting the human workforce – not by replacing humans altogether, but by developing human intelligence and enabling employees to carry out their roles more optimally.

The application and adoption of AI technologies typically involves an amalgamation of a number of different technical fields – whether it be the combination of computer algorithms with bioinformatics, or neural networks and telecommunication networks. As such, careful drafting will be required, not only to navigate the various overlapping exclusions relating to software, mathematical models, but also to ensure that patent protection of a commercially valuable scope is obtained. However, if a carefully planned and executed IP strategy is developed and executed, then in times of disruption such as these (as noted in our article published here) there is scope for commercially significant key strategic IP protection to be obtained.