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Shorter Patent Lifespan for Inventions by Artificial Intelligence?

In 2022, in the case of Thaler v. Vidal, the Federal Circuit affirmed that only natural persons (i.e., human beings) can be named inventors on U.S. patents, thereby excluding artificial intelligence from being listed as an inventor. But while the court’s decision blocked a potentially radical extension of patent rights, it has done nothing to calm growing worries that AI is threatening to upend other aspects of IP law. Use of AI tools such as generative AI (ChatGPT) for new inventions do not pose a challenge for now. However, are the IP laws equipped to handle the possibility when AI systems design own inventions? How will the human inventors compete with AI generated inventions? Will it be fair to human inventors? As the capabilities of AI advances, the question arises: Should patents for inventions by AI have a shorter lifespan than those created by humans? We discuss some compelling reasons for favouring a shorter patent life for AI-created inventions.

Accelerating Technological Progress

AI has the potential to revolutionize numerous industries, from healthcare and transportation to finance and manufacturing. Given its ability to analyze vast amounts of data and generate innovative solutions, AI can rapidly advance scientific and technological fields. By reducing the patent life for AI inventions, we can foster a more dynamic and accelerated pace of innovation, enabling society to benefit sooner from these advancements.

Addressing Rapid Obsolescence

AI technology evolves at an unprecedented rate, rendering many inventions obsolete within a short span of time. Traditional patent terms, often lasting 20 years, might not be appropriate for AI-created inventions, as they risk hindering progress by locking down technology that has already become outdated. A shorter patent life for AI inventions can help address the challenges posed by rapid obsolescence, encouraging inventors to continually improve their creations and promote competition within the AI industry.

Encouraging Collaboration and Shared Knowledge

AI systems often rely on large datasets and training algorithms that draw from a wide range of sources. Shorter patent terms can facilitate increased collaboration and knowledge sharing among AI developers and researchers. By encouraging the timely disclosure of AI inventions, innovators can pool their resources, build upon each other's work, and foster a culture of open innovation. This approach can lead to accelerated advancements in AI technology and the development of more robust and beneficial applications.

Safeguarding Against Monopolistic Control

Patent protection granted for an extended period can grant undue control and monopolistic power to entities that harness AI. Such dominance could stifle competition and limit access to essential technologies, thereby hindering innovation and impeding societal progress. By adopting shorter patent terms for AI inventions, we can strike a balance between providing inventors with fair incentives while ensuring that technology remains accessible to a wider range of innovators, startups, and researchers.

Ethical Considerations and Accountability

AI is increasingly involved in decision- making processes that impact various aspects of our lives, such as healthcare, finance, and law. Shorter patent terms for AI inventions can help address ethical concerns and ensure greater accountability. Rapid advancements in AI technology necessitate ongoing scrutiny, evaluation, and regulation to mitigate potential biases, ensure fairness, and safeguard against unintended consequences. A shorter patent life allows for earlier public scrutiny and fosters a more responsive regulatory framework.

As artificial intelligence continues to reshape our world, it is essential to adapt our patent system to meet the unique challenges and opportunities it presents. By implementing shorter patent terms for AI inventions, we can accelerate technological progress, address rapid obsolescence, encourage collaboration, prevent monopolistic control, and uphold ethical considerations. Striking the right balance between incentivizing innovation and fostering a dynamic AI landscape will propel us toward a future where AI benefits society to its fullest potential.

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