On November 21, 2023, the High Court of England & Wales delivered a significant judgment in the case of Emotional Perception AI Ltd v Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks  EWHC 2948 (Ch). This case revolved around patent eligibility for an AI invention utilising an artificial neural network (ANN). The court ruled that the invention in question, which involved providing media file recommendations through a trained ANN based on human perception and emotion rather than genre, did not fall under the "program for a computer" exclusion as per section 1(2)(c) of the Patents Act 1977.
The invention itself operated by training the ANN using natural language descriptions and physical properties of music files to make recommendations to users. The court highlighted that an ANN could be implemented in hardware or software, and for both cases, it determined that the exclusion clause did not apply. Crucially, the judgment clarified that the transfer of data outside the computer system, coupled with the method of selecting file contents, provided an external technical effect. This aspect, along with the function of a trained hardware ANN, was considered capable of preventing the computer program exclusion from applying. The ruling further highlighted the importance of meticulous claim construction which avoided claiming the invention as a computer program.
Following this landmark ruling, the UKIPO promptly directed patent examiners not to object to inventions involving ANNs under the "program for a computer" exclusion. Additionally, they announced plans to update the Manual of Patent Practice and examination guidelines related to artificial intelligence inventions in accordance with the Emotional Perception judgment. Ultimately, this decision sets a precedent that ANNs, whether implemented in hardware or software, when used to provide technical effects outside the computer system, should not be subject to the exclusion clause for computer programs under patent law. This decision, subject to appeal, marks a positive stride for AI-related patent applications submitted to the UKIPO, signalling a shift toward a more favourable stance on the patent eligibility of computer-implemented inventions in the UK.
Written by Lauren Mills for ip21 Ltd