Artificial Intelligence & Software

AI Patent Trends in Korea 3: Innovation through Convergence with AI

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We are witnessing the application of AI to accelerate the innovation of other industries. In this article, we provide data and analyze the most popular combinations with AI in Korea.

         Although AI technology has long become a growing force in business, it has been usually linked to big software and internet search companies. But AI is no more limited to these organizations, and we are currently witnessing a democratization of AI. Today, most of the opportunities lie in the application of AI to other industries that were thought to be totally unrelated to AI, such as healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing. 


        Companies in all fields are looking for unique AI solutions for their problems, helping businesses to increase their productivity and security, become automated, and overall, be smarter. Stanford University shared results of a survey of 2395 responders representing companies from different regions, industries and sizes, and reported that “over 50% of respondents said that their organizations have adopted AI in at least one business function”. The report also described a 9.3% increase in the amount of private AI investment despite the pandemic. 


         With all that interest in using AI, it is natural to expect a rush of patent filings, which led us to this third article of the AI-patent trend series. Which sector concentrates the interest in the application of AI technologies? And what are the most common combinations we are seeing in South Korea? 


AI Industrial Convergence


         The combination of two or more technologies that may seem totally unrelated to each other in developing or creating new products and services is known as technology convergence. This is a concept vastly used nowadays to describe the latest innovations. In fact, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is all about different technologies being connected, and AI is emerging as the foundational technology for convergence.


         To study in-depth the trends of convergence of AI with other disciplines in Korea, we analyzed a list of patents filed using AI-related keywords in Korea for the last 20 years and identified the application fields using their IPC codes (International Patent Classification system). 

        In our previous article, we reported that machine learning (ML) techniques are commonly used in every sector. Frequently mentioned industries using and patenting AI techs in Korea are transportation (e.g. self-driven vehicles, traffic and pedestrian detection, traffic analysis, parking management, etc), telecommunications (such as network optimization, virtual assistants and chatbots), business (sales forecasting, targeted marketing, etc), security and manufacturing.


        The most popular interaction we found was between the bio and AI sector. This was also highlighted by KIPO, which reported that patent applications in the field of digital healthcare and biomarkers increased more than 30% over the past year. In concordance with that, one of the most fast-growing intersections we observed in our data was the combination of computer vision with the medical industry. We found several filings of computer vision applications on disease diagnosis based on medical images (e.g. X-ray or lung images). In our list, one of the top filers in Korea in this field was the medical AI startup VUNO which also ranked first in a list of top medical AI startups in Korea. The startup stands out for its AI-based image diagnosis that seeks out suggesting optimal treatments to medical practitioners.


        Thanks to such convergence techniques, many startups are gaining competitiveness in the market as well. Another successful case is Deargen, a South Korean drug design biotech firm that maximizes the efficiency of new drug development by using an advanced AI. Recently, Deargen secured 20 billion won series B funding, along with 6 billion won series A funding they raised last year. Through their new drug development technology based on convergence with AI, Deargen was able to gain their next investment opportunity.


        Patents, or even patent applications, often serve as a signal to potential investors. Startups look for IP strategies to increase their enterprise value, but competition is always there for new companies, and new startups need well-thought strategies to successfully protect their IP from the beginning and avoid costly mistakes. 


        If you need help setting up your IP assets, at PI IP LAW we provide counsel to our new clients based on our experience accumulated from representing several AI-based startups in smart factory, medical AI, aerospace, etc. Our practical solutions and tailored programs have been demonstrating impressive results in transforming R&D results into registered patents.


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