Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) systems have been designed to incentivize human innovation and creation. Until very recently such innovation and creation was one of the defining characteristics of the human species. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly driving important developments in technology and business. It is being employed across a wide range of industries with impact on almost every aspect of the creation. The availability of large amounts of training data and advances in affordable high computing power are fueling AI’s growth. AI intersects with intellectual property (IP) in a number of ways.

There is no universal definition of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is generally considered to be a discipline of computer science that is aimed at developing machines and systems that can carry out tasks considered to require human intelligence. Machine learning and deep learning are two subsets of AI. In recent years, with the development of new neural networks techniques and hardware, AI is usually perceived as a synonym for “deep supervised machine learning”.

Recently, AI systems have matured enough to take on tasks previously performed by and associated with humans only. The fundamental goal of the IP system is to encourage innovation through new technologies and creative works. This includes human created as well as AI created inventions and works. AI also provides a general use technology to assist in the application, management and administration of IP systems and tools.

AI generated output that became the basis for two patent applications, are examples of AI generated inventions. One application was for a new type of beverage container based on fractal geometry and the other was for a device for attracting enhanced attention, possibly helpful in search and rescue operations.

AI and IP policy – how are AI inventions and works protected and what is the current IP policy debate about?

Here, a distinction has to be made between human created works/inventions and machine created works/inventions. Qualifying human created works/inventions are protected by the existing IP frameworks, including patents, copyright, industrial designs, and trade secrets.

There is an ongoing debate whether those frameworks and systems need to be modified for machine created inventions/works. In broad terms, the discussions regarding machine created inventions/works are focused around:

  • potential protection for the actual machine created work/invention itself. This tends to focus on the question whether AI be an inventor or creator within the existing IP frameworks
  • potential protection of the AI algorithms and software
  • potential rights concerning the underlying training data and data inputs.

There is also a debate around where the line between human creation and machine creation is to be drawn, i.e. how much or how little human input or guidance may be required to fall within one or the other.

AI has a significant impact on the creation, production and distribution of economic and cultural goods and services. AI is increasingly driving important developments across all fields and industries. Autonomous vehicles, advanced manufacturing processes and medical diagnostic tools are frequently referred to examples. It is becoming clear that AI is going to impact almost all areas. As the development of AI speeds up, its impact and general use will increase, having significant impact on society and the economy. AI will start to perform many routine tasks that, until now, have been done by humans.