Could Artificial Intelligence Advancements Change The Future Of Patent Law?

Machine-learning advancements have led to new coding mechanisms by artificial intelligence, some of which are resulting in brand new patents and inventions. A team based out of the University of Surrey proposed the “first” applications for patents that arose from inventions conceived by artificial intelligence programs. The inventions themselves aren’t as flashy as the implications they might hold for the future: a light and a beverage container.

Futurist Baker McKenzie predicted last year that inventions conceived by artificial intelligence will skyrocket in the near future, which could potentially lead to a big disruption in the area of patent law.

What could AI-based inventions change about patent law?

Baker said, “The patent system was designed to incentivize innovation by granting exclusive rights to inventors for a limited time in exchange for their inventions. But it was encoded into law when there were no computers.”

This potentially puts legislators in a tough spot — especially here in the United States, where new laws are notoriously slow to roll out, if they do at all.

The process is much different (and much faster) in the United Kingdom. 

Leo Kelion of the BBC said of the issue, “The UK’s Patents Act of 1977 currently requires an inventor to be a person, but the Intellectual Property Office is aware of the issue.”

According to Kelion, a spokesman said, “The government believes AI technology could increase the UK’s GDP by 10% in the next decade, and the IPO is focused on responding to the challenges that come with this growth.”

Depending on who you ask, ten percent might be a low-ball estimate. Other futurists believe that the technological singularity — that moment when machine intelligence actually ascends past our own — will occur sometime in the next ten to twenty-five years. When that happens, the potential output of new knowledge will be staggering, and it would be difficult for humans to keep up at all. 

Think about what computers are already achieving, albeit in a limited fashion. According to Professor of Law Ryan Abbott, “These days, you commonly have AIs writing books and taking pictures but if you don’t have a traditional author, you cannot get copyright protection in the US.”

That could be great for traditional authors (and inventors) because it means the ability of AI to make a big dent in profits could be limited — for the time being, anyway. First, there’s a simple question that needs to be answered: do we even want to provide AI applications with the ability to copyright computer-based works and inventions? One thing is for certain: right now we’re not doing enough to study the possibilities that would result from either course of action.

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