Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) has become a catchy tech phrase in the patent world lately, along with Blockchain. An issue that is only now gathering some interest is who is an “inventor” when AI is involved in creating the invention. Some might say that the programmer originally responsible for the AI program. Others might say whoever owns the AI at the time the invention was created. Still others might say that no invention can exist without an inventor, and inventors must be human, so that anything developed without a human involved is not an invention.
The truth might lie in a combination of the above. Certainly, an invention must have an inventor. Under the laws of many countries, patents are a property right, capable of being bought, sold, assigned, and inherited. Machines and computers are not legal entities (yet). Therefore, they cannot be an “inventor” in the first instance.
This could be cured to some extent under contract law where anything created is attributed to the programmer, the original owner, or the owner at the time. It might take some revision of the patent laws to also facilitate ownership of anything created by AI. However, any agent for change will probably be through a court case, which could be some years away. Until then, those who envisage filing patent applications with subject matter created by AI might do well to carefully draft contracts or employment agreements to take into account the downstream effects of any intellectual property created by AI.