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Singapore to fast-track AI patent applications

29 May 2019

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has recently launched AI2, an initiative for Artificial Intelligence (AI) which provides an accelerated application-to-grant service for patent applications relating to AI. It is expected that, under this initiative, applications may be granted within six months of filing. No additional fees will be required to participate in this initiative and the scheme is open to all individuals and corporate entities.

AI2 will be available for two years (until April 2021), and is currently limited to the first 50 applications filed per year. To be eligible for AI2, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

  • The application must be an AI invention (examples have been provided by IPOS);
  • The application must be first filed in Singapore;
  • Search and examination must be requested on the same day as request for grant;
  • The applications can contain no more than 20 claims;
  • The applicant must respond within two weeks to any formalities issues;
  • The applicant must respond within two months of receipt of the written opinion; and
  • Request for certification of grant must be filed within two months of notice of eligibility to proceed to grant.

Applicants must also provide a supporting Fast Track document stating that the application is an AI invention along with the request for search and examination. Applicants will also be encouraged to request early publication prior to or on the same day as request for certification of grant, as an application cannot proceed to grant until it has been published. Applicants will therefore not be disadvantaged by early publication if, for example, their application starts in the AI2 initiative but is removed from the scheme if the Examiner feels too many office actions will be needed before the application is eligible for grant.

Eligible AI inventions are commonly associated with, but are not limited to, machine learning. Some examples of AI inventions which may be suitable for this initiative include machine learning applied in: image recognition; speech/voice recognition; natural language processing; and autonomous systems, such as agricultural systems, self-driving vehicles, or energy management systems.

It is important for applicants to note that mathematical methods per se are excluded from patentability in Singapore. To be patentable, a claim must define an AI method implemented on a computer and must be directed to solving a specific problem, for example IPOS has indicated that a machine learning method implemented on a computer for speech or image recognition or natural language processing would likely be considered as an AI invention in the patent application, whereas an AI method characterised by the mathematical steps of the algorithm would be considered to be a mathematical method per se and therefore would not be a patentable invention.

For applicants for whom this scheme is unsuitable, it is worth bearing in mind that IPOS also has a similar initiative for FinTech inventions and a 12 month file-to-grant scheme for all inventions that are first filed in Singapore. So far no other patent offices appear to be offering initiatives to fast-track AI inventions, despite its increasing relevance and the increasing number of applications relating to AI that are being filed.

Source: https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resources-library/patents/circulars/(2019)-circular-no-2---ai2-initiative_final.pdf 

Article authored by CMS Trainee Patent Attorney Ella Wells.