Patents Can be Your Secret Weapon to Protect Your Big Data Operation The need for, and use of, data has permeated almost every industry, especially as it feeds artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). For many companies, data is the essential ingredient necessary to create and tailor products or services. Some say data is a commodity now, and that one day it will be a more valuable commodity than property.

One can not have missed the news about major players developing smart speakers, intelligent drones and driverless cars, but the applications of AI and ML have not yet been fully contemplated. As of today, the majority of AI & ML patents are granted to the biggest American and Japanese tech companies, with Chinese companies closely trailing in third place.

Currently, data itself cannot be patented, but what is patentable is the method of processing, analyzing, and managing the data. This works for big data companies, since data is only as valuable as what you can do with it. Typically, patents are thought of as a tool for protecting tangible inventions or designs. But patents can also protect processes and that’s how companies shelter their data-related IP.

In the last decade, businesses, governments , and law enforcement agencies have dramatically increased their collection and use of data. This trend is accelerating, and with it is the focus on casting a wide net of protection. One strategy to protect data is to find a technical solution to a problem that uses the data. You can obtain a patent for the technical solution to a problem that was generated by the data–like an algorithm or filter–but it must be tied to the real world and “be useful.”

There are multiple examples of qualifying, patent-eligible algorithms in the software development sector–especially in the AI and ML arenas. The USPTO’s Artificial Intelligence Patent Dataset (AIPD), released in July 2021, identified AI in more than 13.2 million U.S. patents and pre-grant publications, citing an increase of annual AI patent applications by more than double from 2002 to 2018. In his commentary in Fortune this week , Drew Johnson of the National Center for Public Policy Research praised the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board for tightening the rules on infringement, saying “Strong IP protections are essential to our economy as a whole.”

Today, AI and ML innovation takes up the bulk of a tech company’s resources, and data is the precious fuel that powers that innovation. AI and ML patent activity is expected to continue surging in 2022 and beyond. Companies that aggressively protect their intellectual property are on track to deliver as-yet unimaginable value across the globe and reap the profits.

If you have questions about how to utilize patents to protect your data-driven operation, contact the professionals at Ference & Associates at 412.741.8400 or