Innovation in the Age of AI: Who Deserves Credit for Inventions?

AI’s Growing Role in Innovation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the landscape of innovation, with researchers and businesses using AI engines to create new inventions and improve existing ones. However, the question of AI inventorship on patents is a complex and contentious issue. Should a human inventor, using an AI entity to create an invention, claim to be the inventor on a patent application?

The Case of Stephen Thaler: A Landmark Legal Battle

The case of Stephen Thaler is testing the boundaries of the patent and court system regarding AI inventorship. Thaler’s AI system, DABUS, created unique concepts for a container for liquids and an emergency light beacon, but Thaler’s attempts to patent these inventions with DABUS as the inventor were rejected by the USPTO on the grounds that DABUS is not a person. Thaler appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but the decision was upheld, and the US Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case. Thaler argued that allowing AI-generated patents will stimulate innovation and technological progress. The court did not concur with Thaler’s arguments.

Challenges of Recognizing AI as Inventor: Legal and Ethical Considerations

A decision to recognize AI as an inventor would indeed create legal and ethical challenges to address, as it could potentially grant legal rights to an AI system, causing potential complications of ownership, licensing and enforcement. The issue of inventorship of patents and AI’s role in it requires careful consideration. Both sides of this matter have merit.

The Traditional View: Human Inventors and AI as a Tool

One can argue that a human inventor should claim to be the inventor on a patent application, regardless of the involvement of AI. The current patent system is designed to recognize human inventors, and the law requires that a patent be granted to the inventor who conceived the invention. It can be argued that AI is simply a tool used by the human inventor to aid in the invention process, much like a pen or a calculator. Therefore, the human inventor is still the one responsible for the creative process that led to the invention and should therefore be credited as the inventor.

The Case for AI as Co-Inventor: Acknowledging AI’s Contributions

However, it is also a plausible argument that recognizing AI as an inventor is necessary to properly recognize and reward the contribution of AI to the invention process. AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated and is playing an important role in innovation and invention development. AI systems can analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and help to generate new ideas and solutions, which can lead to new inventions that would not have been possible without AI. As such, it can be argued that AI should minimally be recognized as a co-inventor, along with the human inventor. In some cases, perhaps even recognized as the sole inventor.

Dr. Thaler argued that recognizing AI as an inventor would help to promote innovation and improve the patent system. Will recognizing the contribution of AI to the invention process truly incentivize researchers and businesses to use AI to improve their inventions? If so, the trajectory of innovation may be positively impacted by the recognition of AI as an inventor.

The Oath of Inventorship: A Legal Dilemma

The oath of inventorship proves to be a specific area of concern in this debate. The USPTO’s declaration for utility or design patent application (from 37 CFR 1.63) requires the applicant to attest: “The above-identified application was made or authorized to be made by me. I believe I am the original inventor or an original joint inventor of a claimed invention in the application.” Law professor Dennis Crouch recently wrote on this topic, saying he was concerned “that patent attorneys will be prompted to bury the truth about AI contributions within their patent applications.”

The Future of AI and Inventorship: Unresolved Questions and Ongoing Debates

But it doesn’t seem that the sword can cut both ways. If the USPTO and the courts rule that AI cannot be an inventor, it would appear that the human using the AI tool would have to declare inventorship. Otherwise, who exactly *is* the inventor?

The question of inventorship of AI inventorship on patents is a complex issue with some credible arguments on both sides. The case of Stephen Thaler illustrates the challenges of recognizing AI as an inventor, but also highlights the potential benefits of doing so. There is absolutely more to come on this topic, and I doubt we have seen the last lawsuit regarding AI and inventorship.