Understanding Intellectual Property around AI-related
Governments and businesses across the Middle East are
recognising the importance of riding the new wave of disruptive
innovations that corresponds with the rise of Artificial
Intelligence (AI). The UAE, in particular, is committed to being at
the forefront of this new arena. Indeed, it is the first country in
the world to have a minister specifically dedicated to AI, and has
approved a 10-year strategic plan to develop and deploy AI across
multiple industries, including energy, health, renewable energy,
space, transport, and water.
With an illustrious history dating back 70 years, and as one of
the most well-established agencies for registrations and the
enforcement of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the Middle
East, South Asia and Africa, United Trademark & Patent Services
(UTPS) has been closely monitoring this rapidly evolving field. We
are committed to helping our local and international clients in all
fields of technology, including emerging technologies such as
According to a recent report1, AI has the
potential to contribute $96 billion to the UAE economy by 2030,
with potential gains for businesses and the public sector falling
under two general categories: automating processes, and improving
the quality of products and services.
Financial institutions already utilise AI for advanced customer
services by deploying chatbots. They also use it to detect acts of
fraud such as the use of false identities, money laundering, or
credit card fraud. Opportunities also exist for AI applications in
healthcare, due to its ability to handle large quantities of data
to synthesise insights, thus predicting and diagnosing diseases.
This helps to maximise efficiency and outcomes within medical
As AI continues to become increasingly prevalent in our
societies, and as more industries find new applications for it,
understanding the intellectual property (IP) policy around it
According to a report by WIPO on Technology Trends2,
there has been a surge in AI-related patents in recent years, with
computer vision standing at the apex, as it is mentioned in 49% of
all 167,038 AI-related patents. More widely, industries that have
seen the greatest deluge of patents are transportation,
telecommunications, and medical sciences.
Despite the increase in AI-related patents, not all patent
applications get approved, with the most common objection being the
issue of patent subject matter eligibility. Using the US as an
example3, patentable subject matter in US patent law
excludes abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomena,
which makes it common for AI algorithms to be rejected as they tend
to fall under the ‘abstract ideas’ category. However, with
the help of a skilled patent drafter, applications are more likely
to get around such exclusions if the claims are drafted towards
solving a specific, novel, and non-obvious technical problem
achieved by the AI algorithm.
A more interesting discussion surrounding AI when it comes to IP
policy tries to answer the question of whether AI can be named the
author of a patent if it creates something new, something that
might not be too far from reality. Bringing it closer to home and
contributing to the discussion of whether AI can be named as the
author of a patent, the answer in the UAE [at least with the
current law and practice] is a resounding “No”. Article 7
of Federal Law No.17 of 2002 in the UAE, as later amended by
Federal Law No.31 for the Year 2006, presents the following two
- ” . the inventor, or his legal successor, has the
right to the invention.“
- “The person whose efforts are limited to helping in
the implementation of the invention without participating in any
inventive step is not to be considered as an inventor or as having
the status of an inventor.“
Although it is not explicitly stated, these passages both imply
that to be capable of owning a patented invention, the inventor
(a) be a person; and
(b) participate in inventive steps.
Illustrating this through a more tangible example, one can
imagine a car designer who feeds a general shape to an AI
algorithm, which is then deployed to iterate and refine its
aerodynamic characteristics, leading to a patentable invention.
According to the UAE law, the AI in this case is being used as a
simulation tool to achieve an intended result as perceived by a
human designer, who is consequently considered the sole
As innovations proliferate the market, UTPS remains committed to
protecting its clients’ intellectual property rights throughout
the world with seamless and efficient services, and a sharp focus
on client satisfaction. The firm understands that the practice of
IP law requires extensive knowledge and outstanding skills, as well
as the ability to adapt to new challenges and to traverse through
uncharted paths with unwavering responsiveness. As a firm, we also
understand the importance of cultivating and maintaining
long-lasting relationships, which is why over 200 Fortune 500
companies trust us to represent them in various matters throughout
Do you want to learn more about how we can help you protect your
AI-related inventions? Contact us for more information.
1 “The potential impact of AI in the Middle
East”, PwC. [Online]. Available: https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/publications/potential-impact-artificial-intelligence-middle-east.html.
2 “WIPO Technology Trends 2019: Artificial
Intelligence”, WIPO, Geneva, Switzerland, 2019.
3 “October 2019 Update: Subject Matter
Eligibility”, USPTO, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/peg_oct_2019_update.pdf.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.