“As our comments say, we believe AI should not be labeled as an inventor under the U.S. Patent Law, and believe people should hold patents on innovations brought about with the help of AI,” Google senior patent counsel Laura Sheridan told Axios.
The company gave its opinion on the matter in a filing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO had called for opinions on a set of questions related to generative AI and patents. In particular, the office asked: “If an AI system contributes to an invention at the same level as a human who would be considered a joint inventor, is the invention patentable under current patent laws?”
Generative AI systems are already inventing novel combinations of drug compounds for treating disease. And as the systems improve, and are given access to more specialized knowledge bases, they could be the rightful inventor of something with no assistance from humans at all.
Should such inventions be credited to AIs? Or should they be credited to the companies that created the AI? The Commerce Department and the USPTO need to establish a position on the matter. If they change the USPTO’s current rules, it could have profound effects on the country’s innovation ecosystem, which relies on patents to make sure that inventions pay off in dollars.
Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, has indicated that she’d like to clarify the government’s position on inventor status for AIs this year.
A U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that patents are reserved for human inventors. The Supreme Court last week refused to hear the case, leaving the decision of the lower court in place. The courts will very likely be asked to revisit the issue.