IP for AI Behind the rise of deep learning patents

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Chart with number of patents per year

The number of patents issued for deep learning has doubled every year since 2013.

What’s new: Inventor, engineer, and lawyer Nick Brestoff tracks deep learning patents. He detailed his findings in a blog on InsideBigData and offers advice on how to get patent applications approved.

AI on the rise: Breston searches weekly for filings containing keywords including “deep learning,” “deep neural,” or “multi-layer neural.” He found that IBM holds the most deep learning patents (51), followed by Google (39) and Microsoft (28).

  • Between 2013 and 2015, the Patent Office issued just three to four deep learning patents a year.
  • In 2016, that number jumped to 36 and has more than doubled each year since. As of December 3, the agency had issued 361 deep learning patents in 2019.
  • A change in the law helps explain the 2016 jump. That year, a federal court lowered the bar for approval of software patents.

Senior privilege: Inventors age 65 and over — even those listed as co-authors — can fast-track patent applications using a loophole called a Petition to Make Special. This trick has allowed Brestoff, who is 71 years old and holds eight patents on deep learning techniques, to complete the process in as little as three months, rather than the usual years-long wait. “There’s a wonderful advantage to having a knowledgeable senior on your innovation team,” he said.

We’re thinking: Patents have a bad name in some circles, because of patent trolls and frivolous lawsuits that have destroyed value and slowed down innovation. But we’re also not sure a world with no patents whatsoever would be one with more innovation.


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