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European Software Patents: From AI to Blockchains and Now... Self-Driving Vehicles

Also known as autonomous driving

Summary: The leadership which comes after Battistelli is even worse when it comes to patent scope and patent quality; it seems to mimic China's low standards, which include patents on algorithms

THE European Patent Office (EPO) under António Campinos keeps pushing software patents in Europe so frequently that it's hard to keep track. Yesterday alone the EPO did this many times, both by tweets and retweets.



Here's one: "Working with #Blockchain technology? Learn how to protect your ideas at a free one-day conference taking place at @EPOorg in the Hague this December..."

What the EPO means by "blockchain technology" is software patents granted in defiance of the EPC. The EPO is nowadays marketing software patents as "AI", "blockchain" and other hype (not "CII"). Here's another such tweet: "The @EPOorg has an exciting agenda for next week's Patent Information Conference in Brussels! #AI, #blockchain, #textmining and more: http://bit.ly/2RqxlmP Visit us at stand 4 to hear what's coming in 2019! #patents pic.twitter.com/dB3PBxbNSj"

The EPO itself wrote: "Interested in #blockchain? Make sure you don't miss this conference on patenting this emerging technology"

It also wrote about "AI": "How can the patent system best support innovation in #artificialintelligence & #machinelearning? Join the conversation at this conference we're co-hosting with @GoI_MeitY: http://bit.ly/indoeur pic.twitter.com/z2R7wReZk6"

The latest step seems to be marketing software patents "on (or in) a car" even though these are algorithms.

"The EPO just published a new study about trends in #SelfDriving vehicle technologies," it wrote, linking to this new page: (warning: epo.org link)

A study published today, 6 November 2018, by the European Patent Office (EPO) reveals that innovation in self-driving vehicles (SDV) is accelerating fast and finds that patent protection strategies in the area of self-driving vehicle technology more closely resemble those in the information and communication (ICT) sector than those in the traditional automotive industry.

The study, “Patents and self-driving vehicles”, carried out with the European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR), shows that the number of European patent applications related to autonomous driving has grown 20 times faster than other technologies in recent years: From 2011 to 2017, patent applications at the EPO for autonomous driving increased by 330%, compared to 16% across all technologies in the same period. And in the past ten years, the EPO received some 18 000 patent applications related to self-driving vehicles, with nearly 4 000 in 2017 alone.


A lot of these, albeit not all, are simply software patents, especially in my field (computer vision). The EPO seems happy enough to allow patents on mathematics provided the 'right' buzzwords are used.

We have meanwhile noticed Michael Loney promoting other such buzzwords. Yesterday he wrote about abstract patents disguised using buzzwords like "AI" and "Insurtech" ("Fintech" is also a popular one).

RPC reveals that insurance patent filing is up 116% in the past five years, driven by patents related to pricing, telematics, AI and peer-to-peer insurance

The number of insurance-related patents filed worldwide increased 40% in last year, driven by investment in insurtech. The 917 patents filed in the 2017 calendar year was up from 657 in 2016, according to London law firm RPC.


Whether one labels them business methods or software, these are abstract. The US courts would likely reject many of them, citing 35 U.S.C. ۤ 101, adopted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as per a SCOTUS decision on Alice. Michael Loney wrote some other pieces lately (most behind a paywall) and they aren't even hiding the fact that they're patent maximalists, just like Campinos.

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