Knowledge & News

Talking Industry 4.0 in China

28 September 2018

China is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and, by many accounts, will soon be the world’s leading economy. Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation have been key to China’s growth but now the country is embracing the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, or industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 refers to the impact that increasingly sophisticated software, and in particular AI software, will have on the economy. From energy to automotive to medtech and biotech, there are few areas which will be immune to AI based disruption and the race is on globally to deliver the technologies that will define the next industrial revolution.
As with any new technology, legal and regulatory systems need to keep up with the emergence of AI and there are particular challenges around securing intellectual property (IP) on AI – these are of particular concern to companies and innovators in China and elsewhere looking to secure protection in the UK and Europe.
A team from Marks & Clerk travelled to China this Autumn, comprising Peter Roberts and Mark Dauncey from our Manchester office, Philip Cupitt from Birmingham and Graham Burnett-Hall from our litigation team in London. They were also joined by Associate Xiaoyang Yang – who provided translation services – and Partner James Cleeve from Marks & Clerk’s Beijing office.
Alongside the Marks & Clerk delegation, and providing further insights into the patentability of software and AI in Europe, was a team of five examiners from the European Patent Office (EPO) headed by EPO Director Manfred Scheu.
The team presented an event in Beijing organised by Natalia Xia from Marks & Clerk’s representative office in Beijing, along with Zhong Guan Cun Software Park and the Haidian IP Bureau. The presentation covered the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0 and the best strategies for businesses in this space looking to secure IP on their hard won innovation. Central to the discussion was the challenge of patenting the software that will underpin the development of AI and the technologies of industry 4.0.   
Key to companies in China and elsewhere looking to develop European IP strategies for Industry 4.0 is understanding what makes AI-related inventions patentable in Europe. To be patentable, inventions in the field of AI and machine learning must involve “technical” innovation. It is important for companies and their patent attorneys to understand what the EPO considers to be “technical”, and to keep pace with legal developments in this rapidly developing area of technology.
With the EPO set to issue further guidance shortly on patenting AI, and the impact of Industry 4.0 being felt world-wide, developing international IP strategies for AI innovation is crucial and further cooperation will be needed between China, the EU and elsewhere. 


Philip Cupitt

Philip Cupitt Partner Birmingham (UK) Chartered (UK) and European Patent Attorney, Patent Attorney Litigator (UK)

Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts Partner Manchester (UK) Chartered (UK) and European Patent Attorney

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