Grüneberg and Myers - Intellectual Property Law


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USPTO Looks at Possibilities for Implementing Artificial Intelligence in Prior Art Searching

In a recent Request for Information (RFI), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced an interest in using the latest technology in its prior art searches. This level of interest coincides with similar efforts from other governmental IP offices and in the private sector to stay on top of prior art searching technologies.

The RFI recognizes that the world of knowledge is growing at faster and faster rates. It also emphasizes the importance of explaining all decisions made in patent examination.

Against this backdrop, the USPTO is seeking further information on how artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing might enable better prior art searches during the examination process. The RFI acknowledges multiple challenging areas of prior art searches. For example, terms which may be synonymous in some fields may have different meanings in others, and patent applicants can define terms as they wish within their own specifications. Searching non-patent literature can also present difficulties. In addition, the USPTO views overall search quality as dependent on relevancy, on the review and filtering of results, and on knowing when a search is complete, and not just simply on breadth of the search.

While the RFI is not a request for a proposal or a quote, it notes the possibility of such requests in the future.

By requesting information on AI- and quantum computing-based search technologies, the USPTO joins other IP offices such as the European Patent Office (EPO) and others among the five largest patent offices in placing search quality in a position of high priority. Numerous groups in the private sector have also been developing AI-based prior art search methods.

Increased speed, ease, and quality in prior art searching would aid the USPTO in its quest to continually improve examination quality. Even aside from prosecution, better search capabilities in the private sector can support better decision-making in industry, whether the questions pertain to freedom-to-operate evaluations, patentability assessments, inter partes review challenges, or any other circumstances requiring an accurate view of the patent landscape. The USPTO’s interest in AI provides an important data point in the trend of intellectual property leaders taking forward-looking approaches to all types of issues.

Eric Myers