AI as Inventor: Can AI claim a patent?

Normally, only a person can claim a patent for a new invention, or a copyright for new writing. However, futurists have long wondered: Can AI create a new invention and claim the patent? Or, perhaps the question should be: When will AI claim a patent for the first time? In other words, when will we consider AI as inventor and creator?

AI as Inventor
AI as Inventor: Can AI claim a patent?

AI is a new digital frontier that will have a profound impact on the world, transforming the way we live and work

WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry

AI programs are already starting to compose unique texts, unique artwork, and inventions. Currently, they are not able to claim legal Intellectual Property Rights in these, since they are not human creators. Intellectual Property law in the United States, the United Kingdom, the EU, and generally globally, all require the creator to be a person.

The current view, is that an AI or a computer program that would create something unique, is the tool of its owner – who would be able to claim the Intellectual Property Rights.

AI as Inventor: DABUS AI

However, a project in the UK and the US is advocating for the recognition of AI as the inventor, and updating the current understanding of who can qualify as the creator. Ryan Abbott is a Professor of Law & Health Sciences at the University of Surrey; he and his team at the Artificial Inventor Project are working to recognize AI as inventor.

The academics say this [current system] is “outdated”.
And it could see patent offices refusing to assign any intellectual property rights for AI-generated creations.
As a result, two professors from the University of Surrey have teamed up with the Missouri-based inventor of Dabus AI to file patents in the system’s name with the relevant authorities in the UK, Europe and US.

Leo Kelion. BBC. AI system ‘should be recognised as inventor’

They are attempting to obtain a patent for food storage containers designed by the Dabus AI. Most noteworthy, this AI was designed specifically to be creative and come up with new ideas – not just to solve specific problems.

In 2017, DABUS became somewhat famous for creating surreal art. Thaler and company accomplished this by injecting noise into DABUS’s neural network to generate “thoughts”—but the key feature of DABUS is that it is not designed to solve any specific problem.

Robin Mitchell, All About Circuits:Can AI Be Recognized as an Inventor?

AI as Inventor – perfumes & chairs

But lest you think that is the only AI working to create unique and novel inventions, there are plenty more working on this. WIPO has an interesting case study:

The ability to craft a fragrance is something that takes master perfumers years of experience to develop. A group of IBM researchers and skilled perfumers at Symrise, a global producer of flavors and fragrances, got together to explore how to use AI to do just that. 
Mixing artistic and scientific thought into one big pot resulted in Philyra – an AI product composition system that can learn about formulas, raw materials, historical success data and industry trends. 
Philyra uses new, advanced machine learning algorithms to sift through hundreds of thousands of formulas and thousands of raw materials, helping identify patterns and novel combinations.

WIPO: Machine Learning and Perfumery.

Furthermore, an AI has also created a chair. Philippe Starck used software to design a new chair: “the first chair designed using artificial intelligence to be put into production.” Watch a video here.

Intellectual Property Law – changes in the future?

It appears that the current law will need to adapt to the emerging new technology. Although which way it will adapt is still open for debate.

Noam Shemtov is a professor at Queen Mary, University of London. He has written an informative report for the European Patent Office: A study on inventorship in inventions involving AI activity. This report outlines the imminent problem with IP law: AI as inventors.

Summarizing the current state of IP Law:

It has been demonstrated that currently none of the relevant jurisdictions allows for AI systems to be considered as inventor under their patent law regimes and, furthermore, that the present legal landscape is not equipped to facilitate a definition of inventorship that includes AI systems.

Noam Shemtov, A study on Inventorship in inventions involving AI activity, p 35.

In the very near future, AI will be creating new inventions or writing new texts. If created by humans, these creative works would receive IP protections; but because they were created by AI, they may be left without legal protections. Or, the people who created the AI may be entitled to the patents or copyrights for the creations of the AI – even if they had nothing to do with those creations.

This is an interesting area of law, that will need to be further developed to keep with Tomorrow.

For more information:

What do you think? Should the law recognize AI as inventor?

Let us hear from you; comment below.

  • Should AI be recognized as the inventor? Accordingly, should they be granted patents?
  • Do you think this is inevitable?
  • Should the owner of the AI be considered the inventor? Or the creator of the AI?
  • Or, should Intellectual Property Law change to recognize legal persons (such as corporations) as the creator?

Timothy Barrett

Associate Professor of Law at the University of Georgia (Tbilisi, Georgia) and Research Fellow at the Tbilisi Tomorrow Institute. Prof. Barrett’s current research focuses on fields affecting the future, such as artificial intelligence, smart cities, data & privacy. Before moving to Georgia, he was a practicing attorney in the United States, with significant courtroom and jury trial experience. He has a background in civil law, working in private practice, as well as in criminal law, as a prosecutor and as a decorated police officer with the New York Police Department. Prior to law school, Prof. Barrett served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

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