Just as the days (in the UK at least) start getting shorter the UK government has published its response following the consultation on changes to UK patent law to recognise Artificial Intelligence (AI) inventors.
As readers of our previous bulletin may remember, shortly after the UK Court of Appeal decided that in the UK an “inventor” had to be a human, the UK Government launched a consultation asking for comments on possible changes to the law to account for AI inventors in relation to UK patents and patent applications. The changes proposed ranged from simply defining the inventor as the human responsible for the AI system, through formally recognising named “AI inventors”, all the way to the creating of an entirely new intellectual property right to protect AI generated inventions.
In true computer scientist fashion, the UK Government in their response have have gone for “Option 0”. In this case option 0 was to simply maintain the law as it is – which in the view of the Court of Appeal above is a no to AI inventors. This follows the majority of the respondents to the consultation, who also argued for no change.
It seems that there were concerns that a unilateral change to the definition of the inventor under UK law could disadvantage applicants – for example, what would an AI named as inventor on a UK patent mean for the corresponding US or EPO applications if those jurisdictions did not themselves allow or recognise AI inventors? What would be the ownership rules around the resulting inventions?
Anyone hoping that this consultation would provide a quick solution to the AI inventor question is likely to be disappointed.
“Crisis? What Crisis?”
Interestingly, there was a degree of scepticism amongst respondents in the consultation as to whether AI systems are at a level where they are truly devising inventions – rather than just acting as an assistive tool.
As mentioned previously, the recent litigation around the naming of AIs as inventors has all proceeded on the assumptions that in the relevant patent applications (a) there is an invention and (b) the AI did indeed “devise” it. This has allowed the legal point – whether an AI can be named as inventor under the current law – to be explored.
The responses to this consultation do question, indirectly, whether these assumptions reflect present reality, and if a real problem even exists yet. Some suggested that the status quo is good enough to allow protection of the current level of “AI-assisted” inventions. This is a difficult contention to test of course, as missed opportunities are always hard to pin down. With the pace of technological change in the AI space theoretical problems can soon enough become real problems and this is not likely to be the last word on the notion of AI inventors in UK law.
It’s (often) later than you think.