In an article published in Nature Biotechnology, Monica Grewal, Alexis Cohen and Anastasia Greenberg examine the brain–machine interface patent landscape, which suggests that the technology is in its early stages of development, but patent applications have been increasing exponentially in recent years.
Excerpt: Brain–machine interface (BMI) technology combines brain activity with computational processing. A BMI is an input–output computing system: the input is brain activity and the output is the manipulation of software and/or hardware. BMIs can be used to extract and interpret brain signals to allow for thought-controlled manipulation of devices such as computers, robots and prosthetic limbs. BMI technology straddles the fields of neuroscience, signal processing, machine learning and robotics.
We assess the current intellectual property (IP) landscape, specifically patent applications, in the BMI space (‘patent application’ means any pending, abandoned, issued or expired patent). We searched for patent applications filed worldwide since 1980 using Derwent Innovation. The search query required the inclusion of BMI-specific terms such as ‘brain–machine interface’ or ‘brain–computer interface’ and at least one Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) subclass that we previously identified as highly relevant to BMI technology. The search resulted in over 5,000 individual patent applications across 2,161 patent families. We focused on a dataset that included only the earliest-filed parent application in each family (2,161 total results; 77% were alive or pending, and 23% were abandoned or expired).
We present a global analysis of the BMI patent landscape, including the evolution of BMI patent applications over time and across international jurisdictions and assignees. We also provide a detailed analysis of patent applications directed to various technical features and commercial applications of BMIs. The analysis is presented alongside, and is informed by, academic literature on BMIs.