UKIPO updated practice for the examination of patent applications involving artificial neural networks (ANN)

December 18, 2023

A recent judgement from the High Court has caused the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) to change its practice for the examination of artificial neural networks (ANNs) for excluded subject matter.

Patent law in the UK (and in many other jurisdictions) excludes from protection inventions relating solely to computer programs “as such”.

The patent application in question relates to training an ANN to perceive semantic similarity or dissimilarity between media files (e.g., music files). The trained ANN is then used to recommend a file which is semantically similar to a given input.

In the original decision of the Comptroller in BL O/542/22, the application was refused as it was found to be excluded as a computer program.

This decision was appeal by the applicant to the High Court. The judgement from the High Court overturns the original decision. The judgement holds that the invention is not excluded as a program for a computer.

Following the judgment, the office is making an immediate change to practice for the examination of ANNs. In particular, patent examiners should not object to inventions involving an ANN under the “program for a computer” exclusion.

Our commentary on this matter will follow shortly.