The state of play
People have claimed to have secured patents for AI-generated inventions since at least the 1980s, but no one has ever disclosed an AI’s role in such a patent application. Patent offices will not generally object to self-reported inventorship; some of the earliest applicants for AI-generated inventions say their attorneys advised them to list themselves as inventors.
It is important that appropriate policies are put in place to deal with AI-generated works.
There is almost no law on AI-generated inventions. Most jurisdictions pdf require patent applications to disclose an inventor who is a natural person. This requirement is designed to protect and acknowledge the rights of human inventors. Yet, inventors do not necessarily own their patents; in fact, most patents are owned by businesses. Ownership rights can pass from an individual to a company by contractual assignment or otherwise by virtue of law. For example, in many jurisdictions, ownership passes automatically to an employer if an invention is created within the scope of employment. Even when an inventor does not own a patent, laws requiring a natural person to be listed as an inventor ensure that people receive due credit. However, these laws were created without regard to the future possibility of inventive activity by machines.
Recent developments in copyright law with respect to AI
There has been more discussion about AI-generated works and copyright law. In 1988, the United Kingdom became the first country to provide explicit copyright protection for AI or “computer-generated” works. In circumstances where an otherwise copyrightable work is created but no natural person qualifies as an author, the “producer” of the work is deemed to be the author.
The United States Copyright Office has taken the opposite approach. Since at least 1973, it has applied a “human authorship policy” that prohibits copyright protection of works that are not generated by a human author. That makes it very tempting to take credit for an AI-generated work, such as a song or an artwork, that you think has commercial value – the AI is unlikely to complain.
In IP as well as many other areas of the law, the phenomenon of AI stepping into the shoes of people promises to be profoundly disruptive.
The human authorship policy came into public view with the “Monkey selfies” case pdf, which involved a series of images taken by an Indonesian crested macaque named Naruto. People for the Ethical...