AI and Patents: AI Creates Inventions that Human Inventors Don’t Understand

By Robert Plotkin and Cynthia Gilbert

This is a special series of articles about the impact of AI on patent protection from Blueshift IP: Software Patent Experts. This series is intended to be easy to understand and to focus on how to tailor AI patents to your business’ goals. This installment focuses on how artificial intelligence is enabling inventors to create inventions in ways that the inventors themselves don’t understand, and the impact of that on patent law.

Back in 2009, I (Robert) wrote a book about AI and patent law called The Genie in the Machine: How Computer-Automated Inventing is Revolutionizing Law and Business. That was the first book about the impact of AI on patent law. Actually, to my knowledge, it’s still the only book about the impact of AI on patent law.

In that book, I described an example of an antenna that had been created by a team at NASA using AI. This antenna had a very bizarre shape. One of the team members said it looked like an “unwound paper clip.” You can see a picture of it here. When the team who was responsible for creating the antenna looked at it, they were confused and didn’t understand how it worked. They also showed it to experts in antenna design, who scratched their heads and couldn’t figure it out. Yet tests showed that this antenna design performed better than all of the designs that came before it. In fact, it worked so well that it was approved for use on a NASA space station.

This kind of situation is actually pretty common with AI-generated inventions. Such inventions often work extremely well, even though human experts don’t understand how they work.

This aspect of inventing using AI has significant implications for patent law, and I won’t be able to go into all of them today. But one challenge that this poses for patent law is that when you submit a patent application for an invention you need to describe not only what the invention does but also how it works. This can be challenging or impossible for inventions created using AI.

This creates situations in which people have created inventions using AI, but in which they may face significant challenges in writing a patent application that will be accepted by the Patent Office. There are ways around this, but they all require special expertise in patent law as it applies to AI inventions. Failing to take these particular challenges of AI into account when submitting a patent application for an invention that has been generated using AI can result in failing to obtain a patent for that invention, even though the inventors could have been entitled to a patent if the patent application had been written correctly.

The ways in which AI enables inventors to create inventions that they don’t understand is just one of many impacts that AI is having on patent law and strategy. Stay tuned for the next installment of this special series on AI and patents. If you are using AI to invent in your business and want to talk about obtaining strong, broad, and defensible patents for those inventions, please contact us directly at Blueshiftip.com.

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