Ideas involving artificial intelligence are being patented like never before. But how does one patent mathematics, and should you?

This article is made in collaboration with ‘Plougmann Vingtoft‘ – one of the amazing partners making the magazine ‘From University to Unicorn 2021’ possible. You can read the full magazine here.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a central role in the fourth industrial revolution currently rolling over us in the form of e.g. self-driving cars, IoT and automation. Consequently, the number of patents in AI has surged. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), over half of all AI patents in history have been published the past nine years.

– Today, workable pieces of AI are readily available. That’s why it has gained momentum, says Per Jørgen Nygreen, who specializes in protecting ideas within artificial intelligence as Head of Technology & Software at IPR consultancy Plougmann Vingtoft.

Per Jørgen Nygreen encourages everyone with a budding AI idea to consider protecting it. However, there are three important things to keep in mind before doing so:

1. AI is mathematics – remember the technical side

AI is essentially a mathematical algorithm that finds patterns and performs probability calculations. Therefore, it is typically perceived as pure mathematics by the patent authorities. And mathematics cannot be patented.

“AI can be patented if it has a technical character. For example, as part of a sensor that measures temperature to control a power plant or a car. Using mathematics will seldom be held against your patent application, but remember the technical application,” says Per Jørgen Nygreen.

2. Make sure you can enforce your know-how

When you apply for a patent, you give the outside world access to detailed knowledge about your innovation. Therefore, you need to consider whether you can enforce your patent. And that can be difficult.

“Infringements of software patents are difficult to prove. So, you need to be sure that you can make it at least plausible that someone has violated your right. This is an important risk assessment you must make,” he says.

3. Increase the value of your AI

A patent application binds knowledge to the company. It is an assurance for the investor that no employee can take the idea with them to another firm. Therefore, as a company, you should always apply for patent if your idea lives up to the requirements.

“If you are a startup that has not secured its rights, you will be less valuable for investors – regardless of whether you work with AI or physical gizmos. Patents are simply a cheap way to increase your value,” says Per Jørgen Nygreen.