Last week marked something of a minor milestone in the world of European patents. The European Patent Office (EPO) published EP4000000A1 - its four millionth patent publication!
While such a round patent publication number doesn’t happen often (the three millionth patent publication EP3000000A1 was published back in 2016), what really piqued my interest was the subject matter of the publication.
It seemed quite fitting that this milestone should be met by a patent application directed to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based application.
EP4000000A1, which is an application by French cosmetics company L'Oréal, concerns use of a machine learning model to estimate a skin colour of a face in an image, regardless of lighting conditions.
This is just another fascinating example of the increasing ubiquity of AI. Indeed, AI now pervades many aspects of our lives, with applications spanning computer vision, natural language processing, speech processing, control methods and robotics. Whether you are surfing the web, performing some online shopping or banking, or conversing with your virtual assistant, in all likelihood there is an AI involved.
The graph below is taken from Marks & Clerk's “AI Report 2022”, and shows annual publications at the EPO for different types of AI technologies.
Source: “AI Report 2022”, May 2022, Marks & Clerk.
It can be seen, for example, that back around the time of EP3000000A1 only around 300 applications were in the AI field of Computer Vision. By 2021 this was up to over 1900 publications - a quite remarkable increase!
So it may be more than just mere coincidence that EP4000000A1 is an AI-based patent application – it may be a sign of the times!
And it does make one wonder .... what will the subject matter of EP5000000A1 be?
To read the full “AI Report 2022”, which provides a long-term trend analysis of AI patents and applications at the EPO, please download the report here or via our AI page on the Marks & Clerk website.