Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, April 23, 2021

C3 AI Launching a Technology Licensing Office After Getting Broad AI Software Patent 

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Enterprise AI software platform vendor C3 AI will begin licensing its model-driven architecture and other technologies later this year after receiving a broad, new “omnibus” U.S. patent for its flagship product, the C3 AI Suite.

The patent, No.10,817,530, was granted for “systems, methods, and devices for a cyber-physical (IoT) software application development platform based upon a model-driven architecture and derivative IoT SaaS applications,” according to the application.

The application encompasses a wide range of technologies, from advanced data processing and AI application development to an extensive array of techniques necessary to build an end-to-end enterprise AI platform, the company said.

And now that the patent is secured, according to C3 AI, one of the company’s next steps is to establish and open a “Technology Licensing Office” where enterprises and customers that want to use these technologies on their own can license them, CEO Thomas M. Siebel told EnterpriseAI.

Thomas Siebel, CEO of C3 AI

“We spent about a decade and about a billion dollars, building this thing called the C3 AI Suite, and it's a very unique piece of software architecture,” Siebel said. “What we have done that is unique … is use a model-driven architecture as the core design concept for building a software platform that consists of hundreds and hundreds of microservices that are designed to work together.”

The suite provides all of the software capabilities necessary and sufficient for an enterprise to design, develop, provision and operate an enterprise AI application quickly, at low cost and using a low-code approach, he added.

The C3 AI Suite is used with cloud services from AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure or IBM Cloud to give customers the tools they need to create applications for their operations, said Siebel. “We're entirely complimentary with those platforms that are very powerful. We don't compete with them. When you use the C3 AI Suite on top of that, it reduces the complexity of this model-driven architecture. That's basically the patent that has been awarded.”

For customers, that means making a complex process easier and more approachable, he said.

Why A Technology Licensing Office?

What the new patent also does, said Siebel, is enable C3 AI to expand its help to more customers through new licensing options and arrangements under the company’s coming technology licensing office. The office will be responsible for enabling third parties to license C3 AI-patented technologies for use in their own products and solutions.

“Were going to develop an ecosystem that [will] make it very easy and inexpensive for people to license this technology if they want to use it,” said Siebel. “We'll put together documentation and a support ecosystem. Yes, there will be some equitable licensing models like Arm has or other companies like Qualcomm, Intel, Apple and IBM [have as well].”

IBM uses a classic licensing model and “has found a way to be very friendly about licensing their patent portfolio,” said Siebel. “And so we expect, going forward, to develop a very friendly licensing office so people can use these technologies and we'll help them do it.”

What the technology licensing office won’t be, stressed Siebel, is a means to actively go after patent violators.

“Do not get the sense that we that we're going to become patent trolls,” said Siebel. “It's not where this goes, that all of a sudden we've become patent trolls and we're mining. No way does this company become bad guys and shake people down. It ain't gonna happen.”

Instead, C3 AI wants to accelerate the adoption of enterprise AI, he said. “We want to be good guys. We want to be thought leaders, and we're working with some advisors now on what best practices are in doing this. No way do we look like patent trolls where we send out spam to everybody and say you're in violation of our patents and now we're gonna shake you down.”

The idea for the licensing office came after an undisclosed number of customers asked about establishing some kind of licensing possibilities, Siebel said. “We do have these discussions going on.”

How Analysts View C3 AI’s Licensing Plans

Dan Olds of Intersect360 Research

Dan Olds, chief research officer with research firm Intersect360 Research, said C3 AI’s press release announcing its “Robust Omnibus US Patent for End-to-End Enterprise AI Platform” caught his attention.

 

“That’s pretty strong language for a patent that is fairly general and probably very hard to defend,” said Olds. “I’m no patent attorney … but the press release seems to imply that they now have a lock on enterprise AI methods for building AI workflows and processing. But their description of what they patented seems pretty general to me and uses many concepts that have been around in the industry for years.”

At the same time, the company announcing its licensing office as a way to give other companies a path to negotiate licenses for C3 AI technology and IP is off-putting, said Olds.

“In some ways, the press release reads like a warning to others that they need to deal with C3 AI if they have any designs on enterprise AI solutions. In other words, I think there’s at least a slight whiff of patent-trollery in this announcement. I hope this isn’t true, because that’s the last thing we need when it comes to a burgeoning area like enterprise AI.”

Rob Enderle of Enderle Group

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, had a different reaction to the company’s licensing office announcement.

“This approach isn’t that uncommon,” said Enderle. “If you have something unique and may have broader applications than you can address, then patenting the solution and then licensing it becomes an option for additional revenue with little risk. Also, when defending a patent, often it is far better for both parties to explore licensing over litigation which could invalidate the patent or result in a massive penalty for the firm infringing.”

That approach is different from patent trolls, which typically buy patents for pennies on the dollar that they never intend to use, and then try to extort money from firms that didn’t know the patents even existed, said Enderle. “The fact that this is a platform [C3 AI] created and intend to use makes them something different.”

More C3 AI Patent Details

The patent for C3 AI’s technology is for an IoT Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering “for the design, development, deployment, and operation of next generation cyber-physical software applications and business processes,” the application states. “The applications apply advanced data aggregation methods, data persistence methods, data analytics, and machine learning methods, embedded in a unique model-driven architecture type system embodiment to recommend actions based on real-time and near real-time analysis of petabyte-scale data sets, numerous enterprise and [other outside] data sources, and telemetry data from millions to billions of endpoints.”

The platform “provides a suite of pre-built, cross-industry applications, developed on its platform, that facilitate IoT business transformation for organizations in energy, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, retail, insurance, healthcare, financial services, the public sector, and others,” according to the application.

This new patent, which was granted Oct. 27, 2020 and was revealed by the company recently, follows the issue of a patent awarded earlier for advanced methods of data processing. C3 AI holds additional patents in the areas of cybersecurity, fraud detection, and energy data processing.

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