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The USPTO recently released the report “Public Views on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy”. The report is part of the USPTO’s effort to engage with the innovation community and experts on AI and to promote innovation of AI through appropriate intellectual property incentives.

The report includes the analysis of nearly 200 responses received from individuals and organizations to federal notices published in August and October 2019 to solicit public comments on patenting AI inventions and the impact of AI on other areas of intellectual property policy. The USPTO requested feedback on issues such as whether current laws and regulations regarding patent inventorship and authorship of copyrighted work should be revised to take into account contributions other than by natural persons.

AI in Evolution. As an initial matter, commenters noted that AI has no universally recognized definition, and any definition used as part of an AI policy must be dynamic enough to evolve as AI technology evolves. Some suggested that the USPTO revisit the question of non-human inventions when artificial general intelligence (AGI)—AI that mimics human intelligence—is a reality and not just “purely hypothetical.”

Sufficient and Not Necessary. The majority of respondents took the view that current U.S. IP laws provide sufficient protection for development using current AI technology. To many, existing contract law principles can be used to adequately fill in any gaps as AI technology further advances. Generally, commentators were divided on the need for new intellectual property rights to address AI inventions. Those focusing on new protections were focused mostly on data, with some suggesting that advances in AI should warrant more protection for data rights, including sui generis protection.

Human Not Machine Inventors. With respect to patents, commenters agreed in large part that, for now, humans, not machines, must be inventors. Further, most agreed that only a natural person or a company, through an assignment, should be considered the owner of a patent or an invention, although some suggested extending ownership to those who train an AI process or own or control an AI system. Other respondents were concerned on the practical effects of recognizing non-natural inventors, e.g., how would a machine sign an oath?

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