Joint Colloquium on Artificial Intelligence - spotlight on critical issues for IP experts

As we approach the first anniversary of the joint Colloquium on Artificial Intelligence (AI) held by FICPI, AIPLA and AIPPI, it seems appropriate to reflect on the outcomes of the Colloquium, to review the current state of the AI landscape, and where we might be headed.

The Colloquium on AI was held in Turin, Italy on 28-29 March, 2019 with a focus on AI and various IP rights, including patent, copyright, and trade secret protection. The event included approximately 100 attendees, including representatives from several IP offices, industry speakers, and IP practitioners with expertise or an interest in artificial intelligence.

Colloquium speakers scrutinised topics including: an overview of AI, how AI is being used by IP offices, how AI is being used by IP practitioners, AI and copyright issues, and ethical issues.

Patent topics: The event then turned to a more specific focus on AI and patents, targeting four specific patent topics:

  1. Inventorship
  2. Patent subject matter eligibility
  3. Adequacy of disclosure
  4. Assessment of inventiveness.

Challenges in obtaining patents involving AI

The panellists and invited audience reviewed the current state of the law and practice in the IP5 countries, followed by a more open and interactive discussion of the four topics to identify challenges that may arise in obtaining patent protection for AI inventions as well as AI-derived inventions.

Some of these challenges include: how to deal with non-human inventors; the eligibility of AI algorithms per se, uses of existing AI models, and datasets; how much disclosure is required for training data, algorithms, and evolving data; and whether using AI makes an invention “obvious to try”.

While we did not arrive at any definitive answers (and it is certainly too early to have such answers) there was a fascinating and engaging discussion on many of these challenges and what the future holds. A number of policy considerations were identified which should be addressed by law-makers as we go forwards, if the IP system is to remain relevant to this new and important area of technology and can continue to fulfil its most basic objectives; namely to encourage the creation and development of new inventions that will benefit the public at large and generate wealth and employment.

Developments with Offices and practitioners moving apace

Since the Colloquium, interest and enthusiasm around the topic of AI and patents has grown further.

Both practitioners and Patent Offices have continued to study the topic, often focusing on the same challenges identified during the Colloquium.

  • The USPTO issued a request for comments in the fall of 2019 with many questions relating to the topics covered during the Colloquium.
  • The JPO, CNIPA, and the EPO have created, updated, or promoted guidelines that specifically cover the examination of AI-related inventions.
  • In November, the EPO refused two European patent applications in which a machine was designated as inventor.
  • Offices are also increasingly interested in how they can use AI in patent office functions such as searching, classification, and examination.

Further information

Visit the Colloquium website for more details and a useful AIPLA/AIPPI/FICPI AI Colloquium Primer.

Next steps

Get involved with FICPI’s Study & Work Group (CET) on software, high-tech and computer related issues.

How FICPI makes IP attorneys more effective

It is safe to say that there is more to come and much to watch and adapt to as the adoption of AI within the technology landscape continues to grow.

While we are still in the infancy of AI as a technology, and may not encounter some of the challenges mentioned above for some time, many of our clients are seeking patent and other IP protection for their AI-related inventions now. Because of this, it is critical for those practising in this area to continue to adapt to the changing landscape in AI.

FICPI’s Study & Work Committee allows FICPI members to work with each other and with Offices to promote common solutions and develop guidelines as the IP landscape changes.

FICPI will continue to monitor this topic within the Study & Work Committee (CET) Group 6 and so I promise you will be hearing from me again soon!

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