What Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

If someone asked you to explain what artificial intelligence (AI in short) stands for, what would you say? What about machine learning and deep learning? As AI continues to grow in popularity, it’s good to know some of the key terms used in the AI space. We won’t do a deep dive into the different terms and definitions in this article, but to put it simply, you can think of artificial intelligence as the broad umbrella term encompassing the different techniques that aim for “human-like intelligence” in machines. The most promising and relevant area of AI today is called machine learning, which is a specific technique of AI based on neural networks. Deep learning then again is just a sub-field of machine learning, albeit one that has generated much interest in the past few years.

What’s Real and What’s Hype about AI?

Few topics have gained so much media coverage, hype and interest in the business world as artificial intelligence (AI). Equally, AI has been a rich source for science fiction for decades, which probably explains some of the overblown expectations and fears about what the technology behind it can and cannot do (at least for now). While the potential of AI is undeniable and exciting, it’s still early days for AI and humans are still very much needed in training the AI systems. So be reassured that we are nowhere near those apocalyptic movies where robots take over and wipe out humans.

That being said, it is true that AI is playing an increasingly bigger role in our society. It’s very likely you have come across and used some of the AI assisted technologies – whether you realise it or not. Netflix’s recommendations on what to binge-watch next, chatting to your digital voice assistants Alexa and Siri, and Tesla’s “self-driving cars” (partly autonomous) are just some of the examples of how AI is already enriching our daily lives.

Is the UK a Good Place to Set Up an AI Company?

National governments around the world are increasingly looking into the economic potential of AI. China has declared its ambition to become the global leader of AI by 2030, and the United States has for years made major investments in public and private AI research. The UK is strong in the global AI race as well and the clear leader in Europe. It has a strong AI ecosystem with a lot of research activity, VC funding and active government support.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the UK is a home for some of the most innovative AI companies in the world such as Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon. Deepmind became famous in 2016 after its AI program defeated the human world champion in Go, which is a few thousand years old strategy board game. Why was the win such a big deal? Although the rules of Go are even simpler than in chess, the possible moves in each game are virtually limitless and so unpredictable that it was hard to program an algorithm that could reliably win the human professional players. In fact, some predicted that this win would be decades away. Recently, DeepMind has made headlines again with its new AlphaFold program, that has made a huge breakthrough in the 50-year-old “grand challenge” of biology – the protein-folding problem.

There’s no doubt that AI is a leading priority for the UK government. It has established an office for AI, a specific branch of the government dedicated to looking into the possibilities of AI within the UK. The government has made numerous sizable investments to boost the country’s AI ecosystem and to ensure it stays strong in the global AI race. For example, in August 2019, the government announced it would allocate £250m for the NHS to launch an AI lab. The purpose of the NHS AI lab is to increase the role of AI in patient care and technology.

How Can You Protect Your AI Inventions? Advice From Marks & Clerk

As with any emerging technology, developing AI-based products and services can require a significant investment from your business. Therefore, it’s essential that you have robust measures in place to protect your innovations and original ideas. Otherwise, if you don’t protect your intellectual property, there is nothing stopping your competitors from capitalising on all of your hard work.

Marks & Clerk are recognised as one of the world’s leading specialists in intellectual property and are the number one firm when it comes to protecting AI inventions in Europe. They advise clients across sectors, and in all aspects of intellectual property – patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. For inventions related to AI techniques, Marks & Clerk has the highest success rate and has obtained more granted patents, than any other firm of European patent attorneys.  In fact, 83% of these applications handled by Marks & Clerk were granted, compared to the overall success rate for all attorney firms of 49%.  Many of Marks & Clerk’s patent attorneys have qualifications in computer science and machine learning so they have a deep understanding of both the technical and legal issues in this complex area. We sat down with Mike Williams, a Partner at Marks & Clerk, to hear their take on the AI landscape in the UK as well as some practical steps for protecting your intellectual property. Here are three tips from them.

1. Where to set up in the UK?

While London is clearly the largest AI hub in the country (and in Europe), there are other attractive AI clusters in the UK as well, such as Manchester, Newcastle and Cambridge. Manchester is a fast growing city with the longest established School of Computer Science in the UK, and one of the largest. Likewise, Cambridge is attracting a lot of smart minds to the region. In addition to its world-renowned University, which recently announced it would launch the UK’s first master’s degree course in the responsible use of artificial intelligence, Cambridge has a thriving start-up scene that includes many innovative AI companies.

Furthermore, if we can take anything positive from 2020, it’s that the remote working seems to be here to stay. Therefore, location might not play as significant role in the future as it has before, and venturing outside London may be a good choice if you want to save costs on rent and salaries.

2. Don’t neglect your intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) is an asset like any other. It can help secure investments and protect your market position against competitors. It can even be licensed or sold if you are not planning on using it yourself, and therefore can provide you with an extra source of income.

Any company working within AI space will undoubtedly generate IP. It’s a commonly held belief that software can’t be patented, but this is not true, and in fact, the European Patent Office has seen a 35% increase year on year on patent filings for AI inventions. It’s a complex area and it’s important to choose advisors that are genuine specialists, and if you are innovating in the field of AI, you should strongly consider protecting your innovation.

If you’re unsure about what IP assets you have, we would recommend asking a professional, such as Marks & Clerk, to conduct a thorough IP audit. This will help you understand the IP your business already owns or generates and therefore start to get the most out of it.

3. Don’t neglect the intellectual property of others

AI is a competitive and lucrative field and businesses in the AI space are aware of the potential value of software patents. So, it’s important to keep in mind that other companies may already have IP in the techniques you wish to use.If you are are concerned that a competitor may have IP that covers your product or service, it is important to seek professional advice.

Further Help and Guidance

If you need further advice on AI patents, or how to conduct an IP audit, please get in touch with Marks & Clerk.

For inquiries related to setting up your business in the UK and outsourcing your business operations, contact Goodwille at hello@goodwille.com, or have a look at the wide range of essential businesses services we offer to our clients.