We've seen the launch of devices that include AI processors specifically adapted to run artificial intelligence  (AI) algorithms. This trend isn't limited to server scale devices but is now finding its way through to consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal computing devices. These developments help AI to brush up photos, enrich audio and make virtual assistants more helpful but, with the versatility of AI techniques, the opportunities are almost endless.

Of course, these valuable new hardware developments are potentially protectable by Patents in Europe if they are new and provide an inventive step over previously known devices.   However, the algorithms and other software that works hand in hand with the new hardware may also be potentially patentable in Europe if they are novel, inventive and provide a technical contribution.  The current guidance from the EPO gives examples of such technical contributions potentially being provided by AI algorithms applied to a technical application or being adapted to a specific technical implementation .  An algorithm adapted to a specific technical implementation includes artificial intelligence techniques that are designed with the internal functioning of particular hardware in mind and specifically adapted to run on that hardware.    As such, any AI or other algorithms that are designed with the internal functioning of the new AI processors in mind and specifically adapted to run on those processors to provide a technical advantage may potentially meet the EPO's technical contribution requirement.  

With this in mind, remember to not leave the algorithm side of the hardware/algorithm couple unloved when it comes to patenting strategy.  Appropriately protecting both AI specific hardware and the algorithms specifically adapted for it can be the foundation of a beautiful relationship.    

Almost without our noticing, AI has become part of our day-to-day lives. And it's changing how we think about computing


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.