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Can Artificial Intelligence Be An Inventor?

In the decades ahead AI will help us invent things and find patents that previously would not have been possible. We’re already starting to see this in Big pharma and in the advancing biotechnology realm.

As AI by itself starts to invent things, who legally gets the patent? In late April, 2020 the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a decision that claims artificial intelligences cannot be inventors. Only “natural persons” currently have the right to get a patent.

In the pandemic, a world of robots, automation and “machines doing it” actually makes sense. But what happens when artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter as human beings might be getting less smart? In 2020 we’re starting on the road to how to regulate AI and the ethics involved. In early 2020 the European Patent Office (EPO) has issued a ruling on its approach to patent applications that designate artificial intelligence (AI) systems as inventors.

AI will eventually learn how to code and build stuff. It’s already synthesizing enormous data sets to find promising drugs or discover new materials. We know AI will become the essential aid to human living in the latter half of the 21st century, just as mobile devices are in the first.

It’s a funny scenario where the world becomes increasingly dependent not on the internet, but on AI directly. We think of AI as a tool, but what if it becomes more than that one day?

“If I write a Word document with Microsoft Word, that doesn’t make Microsoft Word an author, and if I use an Excel spreadsheet, that’s not making Excel an inventor of a patent I make,” says Abbott, who is also one of the lawyers working on the Artificial Inventor Project

Does an inventor have to be a human?

US patent law was vague about whether machines could invent, referring to “individuals” as eligible inventors.  Currently, it appears that an inventor must be a named human person for a patent application filed at the EPO and the UKIPO. But nothing stays the same forever. As AI’s capacity evolves, how we consider it will also change, our relationship to it will fundamentally shift.

Is an AI just a slave to do our bidding? Is that the end game?

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