The UKIPO updated its Formalities Manual on the 28th of October 2019,adding under 3.05 a provision that “An AI Inventor is not acceptable as this does not identify “a person” which is required by law. The consequence for failing to supply this information is that the application is taken to be withdrawn under s. 13(2)".
Although one could question how important and breathtaking this amendment is, still, it signals the intention of the UKIPO and the way that it perceives AIat this point of time. It is difficult to be sure what has triggered this new provision,, but it could be related to the patent applications submitted in the UKIPO, UPSTO and EPO, respectively, concerning (i) a new form of beverage container based on fractal geometry and (ii) a device for attracting enhanced attention valuable for search and rescue operations. What these patent applications have in common is the inventor, an AI called Dabus.
Naturally, humans are involved in these patent applications, namely in the form of the applicants, two professors from Surrey University. The question is, of course, why the applications name the AI program as the inventor, if not to provoke a reaction from major patent offices.
The AI inventor, named “DABUS” by its creator Stephen Thaler, relies upon a system of many neural networks generating new ideas by altering their interconnections. A second system of neural networks detects critical consequences of these potential ideas and reinforces them based upon predicted novelty and salience.
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Professor Ryan Abott, also a professor at Surrey University, is the head of the application’s project. One of his statements available on the website of Surrey University states,
“Powerful AI systems could hold the key to some of the mega challenges facing humanity – from the cure for cancer to workable solutions for reversing climate change. But if outdated IP laws around the world don’t respond quickly to the rise of the inventive machine, the lack of incentive for AI developers could stand in the way of a new era of spectacular human endeavor.”
In fact, the patent applications are part of a project, the Artificial Inventor project. The website of the project (see here) provides detailed information on the applications and the technology behind it. According to information provided on he website. the UKIPO has indicated that the applications fulfills both the novelty and inventive step requirements. What seems to be a bar to patentability, at least for the moment, is that the inventor is an AI program and not a human being.
Although the UKIPO statement is in line with what could be expected by traditional patent law, one cannot fail to wonder whether this will be an approach that will work in the long run. AI technology has accelerated in its development during the past few years and ever more interesting patent applications can be expected.
As such, query whether the current view of excluding inventions created by AI on the basis a narrow understanding of "inventor" will only lead to companies simply providing the name of a human as an inventor, even if this is not the case, simply to avoid an unnecessary rejection of the patent application. This does not seem to be an attractive result.
Inventorship under the light of AI? Reviewed by Frantzeska Papadopoulou on Monday, November 18, 2019 Rating: