Artificially intelligent algorithms are really good at solving problems, whether designing new drugs or devising novel ways to win at Mario Kart. The AIs’ solutions can often be something of which that no human would have thought.
Indeed these solutions may be commercially successful, may resolve long-felt but unmet needs, may solve problems that (human) experts may have doubted could be solved, may garner praise by others, may use a solution that other (humans) have taught away from, and may succeed where other (mere humans) may have failed. But can AIs invent? Can they be inventors? Or is inventor status reserved uniquely to humans?
This question, which has been percolating for several years, has now ripened to a full-blown active debate in patent law. This summer came news reports of the first patent applications filed naming AIs as inventors. Led by Professor Ryan Abbott at the University of Surrey, a team of patent attorneys submitted two patent applications on behalf of an AI called “DABUS.”
Chris Mammen, D. Phil. is a veteran intellectual property litigator and thought leader in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. He has been litigating patents and technology cases since the start of the first dot.com boom in the late 1990s. With the growth of artificial intelligence, he has emerged as a leading commentator on both AI in intellectual property law, and ethical issues surrounding using AI in law practice.