AI Start-up ‘Legit’ to Disrupt Patent World, Secures Seedcamp Funding

US-based legal AI start-up Legit Patents has secured funding from first round funder Seedcamp, as it prepares to disrupt the world of patent lawyers.

Legit has developed a new way of approaching the patent filing process using AI technology that will reduce the need for initial input from patent lawyers and greatly reduce the cost and time of making a provisional filing.

The AI system has several aspects, including using a natural language processing (NLP) capability that can examine already filed design concepts rather than just search for key words.

An interactive bot is also used to help the inventor to correctly define their invention, without the immediate need for a patent lawyer.

British co-founder and CEO, Matthew Osman explained that the NLP ability could make a huge difference. Anyone seeking to file a patent, or provisional patent that grants ‘patent pending’ rights, needs to check what else may have already been filed and how different it is from the new invention.

Matthew Osman, CEO, Co-Founder, Legit Patents

Using key word searches is a very limited way of doing this and can be an issue. ‘The vocabulary needed to explain new technology is not always well defined,’ said Osman. ‘Legit uses NLP to search for technology concepts.’

This conceptual level of analysis provides a patent filer with far greater certainty. And because it is operated via a software application, rather than needing manual interpretation of a lawyer, it hugely speeds the process.

Speed really matters, Osman stressed, when it comes to patents because there is always the risk that someone else will make a filing before you. In jurisdictions such as the US, which operates a ‘first to file’ rule, rather than first to invent, speed is of the essence. And, the US Patent and Trademark Office is of huge importance to any company seeking to establish itself in the global market.

The other key issue is cost. The traditional method of an inventor or founder going to a patent attorney and asking for help with checking ‘prior art’ i.e. the specifics of the new invention as compared to what is already patented, can be very expensive. Law firms and specialised patent attorneys also charge for the process of defining correctly what it is you have invented, which can be a challenge when the inventor isn’t always able to explain in regular terms what they have made.

‘We came up against a problem that’s common for anyone starting a business: we invented something we thought was cool and we weren’t sure how best to protect it [in reference to an earlier tech project],’ said Osman. ‘We asked several law firms about filing a patent and received quotes ranging from 5-15% of our bank balance at the time. We decided there had to be a better way.’

Patent lawyers should perhaps not panic just yet. Osman says that inventors would still likely go to legal professionals for further advice once Legit had helped them speed the initial process. Though, it will be interesting to see how far the AI application can develop in the years ahead.

Tom Wilson, Seedcamp

Tom Wilson, investment manager at UK-based first round funder, Seedcamp, added: ‘We see huge potential in Legit Patent’s approach of combining their powerful AI with human input to simplify and automate the largely manual and often painful patent process.’

‘Their product will free founders up to focus more of their time and effort on executing on their innovative ideas.’

Other investors in Legit Patents include angel investor Kevin Moore, Fantastic Ventures, which is the investment vehicle for Uber’s Head of Data Science, and founding members of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. The company has also received a Y Combinator Fellowship.

Legit Patents was co-founded by a group of UK and US lawyers working with current and former members of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT and the Computer Science Department at Tufts University.