Most of us know that DATA, the beloved android from Star Trek, The Next Generation, is an artificial intelligence (AI) life form from the distant future with a high capacity to problem solve and innovate. But, if DATA were present today and invented a new technology, could he be an inventor on a patent for his invention? The question of whether AI can legally be an inventor on a patent was recently addressed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). The same question is still being evaluated by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) along with solicitation for comments to the patent community. A group from the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom (UK), recently challenged the definition of "inventor" in Europe and the United States by filing two separate patent applications designating an AI entity as an inventor.
The American and Chinese trade war is near to boiling. The American attempt to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has failed; China might be behind the Marriott data breach; and China might've caused a massive internet disruption. But one perpetual sore point between the US and China -- intellectual property (IP) abuse -- is taking a step for the better. Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial are joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), the pro-open source and Linux patent-protection group. Alibaba -- think of it as China's Amazon and eBay -- has a net worth of over $80 billion dollars.
It is widely believed that breakthrough innovation is more likely to be achieved by teams. Research has found that teams generally outperform individuals when attempting to create impactful innovations such as highly cited technological patents or scientific publications. However, our research has uncovered a factor that plays a key role in determining whether team outcomes will be superior to those of lone inventors: the structure of the invention -- that is, the extent to which the invention can be broken down into separate components or "modules." We analyzed 1,603,970 utility patents (awarded for innovation in function, such as for a product, process, or machine) and 198,265 design patents (innovation in form, such as a distinct visual configuration or ornamentation of a product), filed between 1985 and 2009 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We tallied the number of "breakthrough" inventions, defined as those whose number of citations is within the top 5% of its product class.
Not content with patenting the marvellous invention of a paper bag, Apple decided that ordinary pizza boxes simply weren't up to the job in its white and shiny world. Behold the circular, Apple-approved pizza box to end all pizza boxes. Published in 2012 – with one box apparently signed as a mark of respect on the death of the Apple founder, Steve Jobs – the patent says that the new and improved circular pizza receptacle's invention is credited to Apple's head of food services, Francesco Longoni. It was intended for use in the company's Caffè Macs and the new Apple Park cafe. The patent describes a "container that is structurally stable enough for containing an item in a variety of applications and is also environmentally friendly".
The extent to which scientific advances support marketplace inventions is largely unknown. We study 4.8 million U.S. patents and 32 million research articles to determine the minimum citation distance between patented inventions and prior scientific advances. We find that most cited research articles (80%) link forward to a future patent. Linked papers and patents typically stand 2 to 4 degrees distant from the other domain. Yet, advances directly along the patent-paper boundary are notably more impactful within their own domains.