Artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized many technology areas. As a few examples, it has already been instrumental in improving and enabling voice recognition algorithms, digital assistants, advertisement recommendation engines and financial trading applications. Significant investment is being made for further development of this promising new technology, with R&D spending on AI predicted to reach $57.6 billion by the end of 2021. Along with these R&D efforts, companies are also trying to protect and monetize their AI inventions, in some cases opting to seek patent protection. From 2002 to 2018, the number of AI patent applications filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) more than doubled, from 30,000 to 60,000. These R&D efforts are no longer limited to software companies.
Who are the inventors of patents? Since George Washington signed the first patent in 1790, the United States has issued patents to people of various ages, ethnicities, and genders, with some patent inventors being as young as two when they filed. The varied backgrounds of these inventors stems from the United States Patent and Trademark Office's ("USPTO") broad definition of an inventor, laying out an inventor to "mean the individual or, if a joint invention, the individuals collectively who invented or discovered the subject matter the invention." But what happens when the inventor is a machine? This is the exact issue Dr. Stephen Thaler sought to resolve with the USPTO as well as other worldwide patent offices.
Donald Trump is on his way out of the White House, but that didn't stop him from pardoning 73 people and commuting the sentences of another 70 people on the last day of his presidency. One name on that list is Anthony Levandowski, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets from the Google-owned, self-driving car company Waymo. Levandowski was a co-founder of Google's self-driving car division before leaving the tech giant in 2016 to start a self-driving truck company called Otto. That company was subsequently acquired by Uber, and Waymo filed a lawsuit alleging that their confidential information ended up in the hands of Uber. Levandowski was looking at a 10-year sentence, but he eventually pleaded guilty to trade secret theft, thus reducing his prison sentence.
It's been two weeks since Google fired Timnit Gebru, a decision that still seems incomprehensible. Gebru is one of the most highly regarded AI ethics researchers in the world, a pioneer whose work has highlighted the ways tech fails marginalized communities when it comes to facial recognition and more recently large language models. Of course, this incident didn't happen in a vacuum. Case in point: Gebru was fired the same day the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against Google for illegally spying on employees and the retaliatory firing of employees interested in unionizing. Gebru's dismissal also calls into question issues of corporate influence in research, demonstrates the shortcomings of self-regulation, and highlights the poor treatment of Black people and women in tech in a year when Black Lives Matter sparked the largest protest movement in U.S. history. In an interview with VentureBeat last week, Gebru called the way she was fired disrespectful and described a companywide memo sent by CEO Sundar Pichai as "dehumanizing." To delve further into possible outcomes following Google's AI ethics meltdown, VentureBeat spoke with five experts in the field about Gebru's dismissal and the issues it raises.
There aren't enough game consoles in the world for our upcoming locked-down holiday. As Nintendo similarly struggles to keep up with demand, the number of people searching iFixit for Switch repair guides has more than tripled since last year. Traffic to our Joy-Con controller repair page started growing dramatically on March 14--the day after President Trump declared a national emergency. It's been surging ever since. At a time when so many of us are turning to games for fun, stress relief, and social connection, it is imperative for our collective sanity that we press every game console into service.
In a new report released on October 27 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), more than 42% of all technology areas in 2018 incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their new inventions. The majority of these improvements come in knowledge processing and planning/control, which involve analyzing information to gain new insights and using those insights to manage a business process. CIOs continue to talk about how vital AI technologies are, but this new report confirms that if companies aren't already putting that talk into action, they are behind the curve. The danger of falling behind is even greater for companies that haven't started adoption since the statistics only cover till the end of 2018. In the last 18 months, the percentage of technologies that include AI has undoubtedly continued to increase. The report also confirms an increased interest by the office in this technology and a higher willingness to consider new applications that include them.
The World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) held its third "Conversation on Intellectual Property and Artificial Intelligence" on November 4, 2020, to discuss its revised issues paper on Intellectual Property Policy and Artificial Intelligence. Public bodies in the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union have each recently published reports on the interrelationship of AI on IP policy. In October 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a report, Public Views on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy, on two formal requests for comments, and the European Parliament published a report on intellectual property rights for the development of AI technologies. In September 2020, the UK's Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) published a call for views on the policy considerations and future relationship between AI and IP. Courts in each jurisdiction have so far rejected the suggestion that AI has its own legal personality.
Technology keeps creating challenges for intellectual property law. The infamous case of the "monkey selfie" challenged the notion of not just who owns a piece of intellectual property, but what constitutes a "who" in the first place. Last decade's semi-sentient monkey is giving way to a new "who": artificial intelligence. The rapid rise of AI has forced the legal field to ask difficult questions about whether an AI can hold a patent at all, how existing IP and patent laws can address the unique challenges that AI presents, and what challenges remain. The answers to these questions are not trivial; stakeholders have poured billions upon billions of dollars into researching and developing AI technologies and AI-powered products and services across academia, government, and industry.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today released a report titled "Public Views on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy." The new report represents the agency's firm commitment to keeping pace with this rapidly changing and critical technology in order to accelerate American innovation. "On February 11, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13859 announcing the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative, our nation's strategy on artificial intelligence," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "As artificial intelligence technologies continue to advance, the United States will not cede leadership in global innovation. The Department of Commerce recognizes the importance of harnessing American ingenuity to advance and protect our economic security." "The USPTO has long been committed to ensuring our nation maintains its leadership in all areas of innovation, especially in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence," said Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.
It's not surprising that we've experienced an explosion in artificial intelligence (AI) patent activity over the past several years. As recently as 2016, the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) issued less than 1,000 AI-related patents. As this explosion has occurred, so have interesting questions concerning patentability, inventorship, ownership, and disclosure issues. To address these (and other) concerns, the USPTO launched its Artificial Intelligence Initiative in 2019, engaging the innovation community and experts to determine whether AI required any changes to the U.S. Patent system. In response to requests for public comments on these topics, the USPTO received comments from 43 organizations, ranging from domestic and international patent/IP bar associations to companies such as Ford Motor Co. and Merck, and also from 55 individuals.