Medical Technology Leads in AI Innovation

The medical technology (medtech) sector has emerged as a frontrunner in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, surpassing other industries, according to findings published by intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk.

In 2022, the number of AI-based patent applications filed by the medtech sector reached 2,771, almost four times the number filed in 2018. The year-on-year growth in AI applications filed by the sector consistently exceeded that of the overall AI industry between 2014 and 2021.

An analysis of the data reveals the specific areas within the medtech industry that are driving this growth. AI-based medical imaging and diagnostics accounted for the majority of applications in 2022, totaling 3,018. However, the field of AI-based drug discovery experienced a decline, with only 12 applications filed last year, a decrease of 30% compared to 2021.

Several factors may explain this decline. It could be attributed to the immaturity of the technology or concerns among inventors about its patentability. Alternatively, inventors may be adopting a long-term strategy to keep their drug discovery processes confidential and protect the drugs they develop through patent applications.

Tim Hargreaves, a partner and medtech specialist at Marks & Clerk, pointed out that the dominance of the medtech sector in AI-based patent applications reflects its role as a leader in global innovation. He emphasized that securing intellectual property rights in the medtech field can be complex due to the diverse technical specializations involved in product development.

The report also highlights the global influence of AI on the medtech industry. While Europe and the US continue to lead in AI patent filings at the European Patent Office (EPO), increasing numbers of filings are coming from Asia, especially China. This trend aligns with the medtech industry’s strong commitment to embracing AI and signifies increased investment in research and development to advance global aspirations of becoming AI superpowers.

The analysis further categorizes the applications based on the underlying technologies. It reveals that computer vision and predictive analytics technologies make up nearly two-thirds of applications in the medtech sector. Predictive analytics, in particular, is more prevalent in medtech filings compared to the broader AI industry. This suggests that the medtech sector places greater emphasis on prediction, prevention, and intervention rather than treatment in its approach to AI.

Looking ahead, Mike Williams, a partner at Marks & Clerk, anticipates the potential impact of AI regulations on patent filing trends. The recently drafted EU AI Act could pose challenges to AI development in the EU similar to those faced with GDPR. However, the surge in generative AI has not yet been reflected in the current patent data due to the publication timeline. It will be interesting to observe whether this trend will impact future data.

In conclusion, the medtech sector stands to benefit significantly from the evolution of AI technologies, as they bring us closer to a data-driven future. Marks & Clerk’s AI Report, based on EPO data, provides valuable insights and analysis from their team of AI specialists to identify global trends in AI patent applications.