AI Blockchain

UK Ranked Fourth in World for Blockchain Patents Filed, Falling Behind in AI

·         UK businesses filed 11% of all global blockchain patents in 2017

·         Chinese companies have big lead in developing Artificial Intelligence technology

·         UK Government may need to consider more R&D tax credits for Artificial Intelligence development

11% of all global patents for blockchain technology were filed by UK businesses last year – ranking them fourth in the world – with 34 patents from a total of 305 filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 2017, shows a new study by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network. 

No other country in the European Union makes it into the Top 10 countries for number of patents related to blockchain filed with WIPO.

In comparison, Chinese businesses filed 32% of all global patents for blockchain technology in 2017. Chinese businesses have invested heavily in blockchain technology in recent years, with the Chinese central bank supporting the development of a blockchain-based trade finance platform to help SMEs access finance.

The study shows that US businesses are close behind with 92 global patents (30%), followed by Australian businesses with 40 patents (13%), just ahead of the UK (see table below).

UHY adds that the biggest filer of global blockchain patents last year was nChain, a blockchain-focused research firm based in London and Vancouver, which filed 48 patents for blockchain technology at WIPO in 2017.

UHY explains that while European businesses have only filed a limited number of patents at the global level through WIPO, many have been more active at a local level.

UK businesses rank third in the world for patenting new blockchain technology



UK businesses falling behind rivals in developing Artificial Intelligence technology

The study shows, however, that UK businesses are falling behind China and other international rivals in the development of patented Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, filing just 2 patents from a total of 608 Artificial Intelligence patents (less than 1%) with WIPO last year.

China is ahead of its global competitors by some distance in the race to build portfolios of intellectual property in Artificial Intelligence. Chinese businesses filed 473 out of the 608 Artificial Intelligence patents (77%) filed with WIPO last year. (see table below).

UHY says that Chinese businesses like Baidu – often described as the ‘Google of China’ – and technology and social media conglomerate Tencent are among the world’s leading developers of Artificial Intelligence technology. Baidu filed the most Artificial Intelligence patents at WIPO in 2017, with 183.

Even though the UK is falling behind international rivals for the number of Artificial Intelligence related patents filed with WIPO, the UK remains a key hub for the sector. 

For example, major Artificial Intelligence company, Deepmind, is headquartered in London. It made headlines in January 2018 for developing the AlphaGo computer programme which beat GO world champion, Lee Sedol, in a five-game match. 

Global competition over Artificial Intelligence technology has heated up in recent years, with many national governments putting in place programmes to support businesses and universities in developing Artificial Intelligence clusters and bringing technology to market.

To help increase R&D in Artificial Intelligence, in April 2018, the UK Government announced a £1 billion funding package to support the development of the UK Artificial Intelligence industry. 

The package aims to establish the UK as a leading research hotspot, with money for training 8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded Artificial Intelligence PhDs and a commitment to develop a Turing Fellowship programme. 

New Artificial Intelligence technology developments dominated by Chinese companies – UK companies falling behind



Andrew Snowdon, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, comments: “If the UK is to maintain its strong position as a hub for new technology, the Government needs to ensure more businesses patent their Intellectual Property.”

“Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence could unlock significant economic growth and the UK is one of the world’s leaders for developing newer technologies.”

“The UK has historically been at the forefront of research in the fields of both Artificial Intelligence and blockchain. As the home to companies such as DeepMind, Improbable and 5AI, the UK continues to be a key leader in the development of these new technologies.”

“However, the UK is beginning to lag behind its rivals in developing and patenting some of these new technologies. With the formal Brexit date on the horizon, the Government needs to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for tech businesses. This could include initiatives such as targeted tax credits designed to encourage increased research and development in this area.”

“Developing Artificial Intelligence technology is also going to be critical in determining which businesses will emerge as leaders from the next industrial revolution. The UK Government may need to consider proposals that offer more R&D tax credits for Artificial Intelligence development for businesses.”

“It is important to note that many businesses can be reluctant to file patents due to the time it takes and the costs involved. Additionally, some businesses prefer to keep trade secrets for as long as possible to stay ahead of the competition.”

Clive Gawthorpe, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, adds: “The businesses that are positioned best in the long term are those that benefit from private enterprise and government both investing to bring Artificial Intelligence technology to mass markets.”


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