New gold rush for US patents: brain technologies

Last year 1,600 patents were registered in ‘neurotech’ as field expands beyond medicine

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The number of US patents registered yearly for brain related technologies has increased fivefold  since the 2000’s, according to an analysis released yesterday.

The report by SharpBrains, a market-research firm, shows that many patents have been awarded to inventions other than those with medical uses.

"Neurotech has gone well beyond medicine, with non-medical corporations, often under the radar, developing neurotechnologies to enhance work and life," SharpBrains CEO Alvaro Fernandez said at the Neurogaming Conference in San Francisco.

There were 300-400 neurotechnology patents issued annually in the 2000s which climbed to 800 in 2010. Last year 1,600 brain technology patents were registered.

While some patents awarded to companies such as Medtronic are about using electroencephalography (EEG) to assess brain lesions, non-medical uses like video-gaming is the main reason for the increase in interest in this technology.

Nielsen is leading with 100 patents in the SharpBrains intellectual property (IP) strength list, measured by breadth and influence as well as the number of the patents. The consumer-research giant has patents, for instance, describing how to detect and translate brain activity, which could be used for assessing consumer habits.

Microsoft also holds patents in technology which attempts to find the best mental state in which to introduce information so that software can adjust the complexity of the material presented according to the user’s attention.

Alvarez interprets these developments and many more as meaning that we are at the dawn of “the pervasive neurotechnology age”.

TRTWorld and agencies