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Understanding Intellectual Property around AI-related Innovations

Understanding Intellectual Property around AI-related Innovations

Understanding Intellectual Property around AI-related Innovations

Governments and businesses across the Middle East are recognising the importance of riding the new wave of disruptive innovations that corresponds with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The UAE, in particular, is committed to being at the forefront of this new arena. Indeed, it is the first country in the world to have a minister specifically dedicated to AI, and has approved a 10-year strategic plan to develop and deploy AI across multiple industries, including energy, health, renewable energy, space, transport, and water.

With an illustrious history dating back 70 years, and as one of the most well-established agencies for registrations and the enforcement of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, United Trademark & Patent Services (UTPS) has been closely monitoring this rapidly evolving field. We are committed to helping our local and international clients in all fields of technology, including emerging technologies such as AI.    

According to a recent report [1], AI has the potential to contribute $96 billion to the UAE economy by 2030, with potential gains for businesses and the public sector falling under two general categories: automating processes, and improving the quality of products and services.

Financial institutions already utilise AI for advanced customer services by deploying chatbots. They also use it to detect acts of fraud such as the use of false identities, money laundering, or credit card fraud. Opportunities also exist for AI applications in healthcare, due to its ability to handle large quantities of data to synthesise insights, thus predicting and diagnosing diseases. This helps to maximise efficiency and outcomes within medical facilities.

As AI continues to become increasingly prevalent in our societies, and as more industries find new applications for it, understanding the intellectual property (IP) policy around it becomes important.

According to a report by WIPO on Technology Trends [2], there has been a surge in AI-related patents in recent years, with computer vision standing at the apex, as it is mentioned in 49% of all 167,038 AI-related patents. More widely, industries that have seen the greatest deluge of patents are transportation, telecommunications, and medical sciences.

Despite the increase in AI-related patents, not all patent applications get approved, with the most common objection being the issue of patent subject matter eligibility. Using the US as an example [3], patentable subject matter in US patent law excludes abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomena, which makes it common for AI algorithms to be rejected as they tend to fall under the ‘abstract ideas’ category. However, with the help of a skilled patent drafter, applications are more likely to get around such exclusions if the claims are drafted towards solving a specific, novel, and non-obvious technical problem achieved by the AI algorithm.

A more interesting discussion surrounding AI when it comes to IP policy tries to answer the question of whether AI can be named the author of a patent if it creates something new, something that might not be too far from reality. Bringing it closer to home and contributing to the discussion of whether AI can be named as the author of a patent, the answer in the UAE [at least with the current law and practice] is a resounding “No”. Article 7 of Federal Law No.17 of 2002 in the UAE, as later amended by Federal Law No.31 for the Year 2006, presents the following two statements:

  • " … the inventor, or his legal successor, has the right to the invention."
  • "The person whose efforts are limited to helping in the implementation of the invention without participating in any inventive step is not to be considered as an inventor or as having the status of an inventor."

Although it is not explicitly stated, these passages both imply that to be capable of owning a patented invention, the inventor must:

(a)        be a person; and

(b)        participate in inventive steps.

Illustrating this through a more tangible example, one can imagine a car designer who feeds a general shape to an AI algorithm, which is then deployed to iterate and refine its aerodynamic characteristics, leading to a patentable invention. According to the UAE law, the AI in this case is being used as a simulation tool to achieve an intended result as perceived by a human designer, who is consequently considered the sole inventor.

As innovations proliferate the market, UTPS remains committed to protecting its clients’ intellectual property rights throughout the world with seamless and efficient services, and a sharp focus on client satisfaction. The firm understands that the practice of IP law requires extensive knowledge and outstanding skills, as well as the ability to adapt to new challenges and to traverse through uncharted paths with unwavering responsiveness. As a firm, we also understand the importance of cultivating and maintaining long-lasting relationships, which is why over 200 Fortune 500 companies trust us to represent them in various matters throughout the region.

Do you want to learn more about how we can help you protect your AI-related inventions? Contact us for more information.


[1] "The potential impact of AI in the Middle East", PwC. [Online]. Available: https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/publications/potential-impact-artificial-intelligence-middle-east.html.

[2] "WIPO Technology Trends 2019: Artificial Intelligence", WIPO, Geneva, Switzerland, 2019.

[3] "October 2019 Update: Subject Matter Eligibility", USPTO, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/peg_oct_2019_update.pdf.