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The Patent System's Struggle to Adapt to AI-Augmented Inventions: My Personal Story

As an inventor, I recently developed a card game - AI Adventures - designed for ages 11 and above, aiming to make AI concepts accessible and engaging for all learners. Encouraged by an attorney friend and curious about the patent system’s response to AI-augmented innovations, I decided to file a patent application. It became quickly obvious that the existing patent system is ill-equipped to handle works created in partnership with AI. This post shares the challenges I have faced during this process, proposes solutions to modernize the patent system for an AI-augmented world, and explains why we all care about solving this problem.

The Current Patent System: A Mismatch for AI-Augmented Works

The U.S. patent system was originally designed with human inventors in mind, assuming that their contributions to inventions could be clearly identified and described. This framework has traditionally required a clear delineation between contributions made by humans and those made by artificial intelligence (AI). However, as AI increasingly plays a role in the creative and inventive processes, this clear separation becomes less distinct.

Recognizing these challenges, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently updated its guidelines on patenting AI-assisted inventions. Under the new rules, AI alone cannot be credited as an inventor. However, inventions that significantly benefit from AI input can still be patented if there is a substantial human contribution to the invention. This requirement ensures that while AI may assist, it is the human input that is pivotal in developing the invention to a state that meets patent eligibility. The updated guidelines aim to strike a balance between fostering innovation and preserving the spirit of the patent system, which is to reward human ingenuity, even as AI becomes a more common tool in innovation.

My Experience: Word-by-Word Interrogation

Given my commitment to educating as many people as possible regarding the power of AI - and wanting to do so by encouraging a fun and collaborative approach - I built an AI card game in partnership with AI. Despite the recent updates to USPTO guidelines, since filing my patent application I have encountered a rigid system designed to dissect every individual word and image. This literal word-by-word approach is extremely ineffective. I am being asked which words that I came up with by myself and which words AI may have suggested. This approach not only ignores the discrete value that is possible to create using human+AI collaboration, but it also disregards the complexity of human+AI-augmented content. The patent system's focus on individual components, rather than the holistic work, highlights the need for a more adaptive and modern approach to intellectual property (IP) protection.

The Need for Modernization: Potential Solutions

The evolving AI landscape is screaming out for a modernized approach to the patent system, as I am personally experiencing. Recognizing AI's significant role in the creative process through joint inventorship between humans and AI, focusing on the methods of AI-human collaboration with process-oriented patents, and adapting IP rights to AI's growing contributions are possible steps forward. These potential solutions are offered as mechanisms to ensure that our patent system remains relevant and effective in protecting and encouraging future innovations.

  1. Joint Inventorship between Humans and AI: Acknowledging AI's Role in the Creative Process Despite AI's inability to fit the legal definition of a person, it is essential to recognize its role in the creative process. By introducing the concept of joint inventorship between humans and AI, we can acknowledge the value of AI-augmented contributions and ensure that the patent system evolves to accommodate this new reality.

  2. Process-Oriented Patents: Focusing on Human+AI Collaboration Methods Rather than focusing solely on the end products, process-oriented patents can emphasize the methods and processes of human+AI collaboration. This approach would better reflect the true nature of AI-augmented inventions and encourage more investment in AI-enhanced products.

  3. Dynamic IP Rights: Adapting to AI's Growing Contributions As AI systems become more sophisticated and integral to various fields, IP rights must evolve to accommodate these changes. Dynamic IP rights can adapt to the growing contributions of AI systems, ensuring that inventors receive appropriate protection for their innovations while fostering a more flexible and realistic patent model.

Why Modernizing the Patent System Matters for Business

Updating the patent system is crucial due to the widespread use of AI by inventors. This partnership of humans+AI is only going to accelerate. It's an exciting market development as it's enabling more and faster innovation for individual inventors and businesses. To support this positive innovation momentum, we need to ensure that our IP protection mechanisms are well-aligned with this reality. Here are some specific ways that businesses are impacted:

  • Innovation Speed: Streamlining Patent Process for AI-driven Market In an AI-driven market, speed is crucial. By recognizing the joint efforts of humans and AI, we can streamline the patent process and accelerate innovation. Without this, innovation will slow.

  • Clearer Path to Market: Reducing Uncertainty for AI-enhanced Products Many businesses are hesitant to invest in AI technologies due to uncertain IP protections. Modernizing IP laws to include AI contributions can provide more security for these investments, encouraging more AI-enhanced products and a more robust market.

  • Cost Efficiency: Reducing Conflicts and Associated Costs The current patent system can lead to expensive and lengthy legal battles over IP rights. A more adaptive and realistic patent model can reduce these conflicts and associated costs, making it easier and cheaper to protect innovations.

The Impacts of Inventor Financial Suppression

If you don't work as an inventor, you're likely unaware of the costs to inventors to protect their IP. Another inventor shared with me that he filed a provisional patent for a product years ago, but the high costs involved in obtaining a full patent and developing the product, coupled with the lack of funding, deterred him from pursuing the patent further. This is a long-standing common issue for inventors. It not only harms individual inventors, but it decreases the innovative solutions enjoyed by society when inventors are financially suppressed. As we work to modernize our IP protections, we must democratize access to the patent system, or continue to live in a world where only resource-rich entities hold patents.

Conclusion: Embracing AI in the Patent System

AI is already a standard part of the creative process. It is high time for the patent system to recognize and protect inventions with a modern and aligned approach to this reality. In the meantime, I will continue to navigate the patent system's word-by-word interrogation for my AI Adventures card game. I will continue to use my experience to educate the business community and drive towards a more adaptive and inclusive patent system for future AI-augmented works!

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