Artificial intelligence continues to become increasingly capable and sophisticated. But AI software shouldn’t be considered an inventor for purposes of intellectual property rights, under existing law, and in view of the still-developing capabilities of AI.

So says Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Chris Mammen, who recently discussed the relationship between AI and patents with the MIT Technology Review. Mammen said listing AI algorithms as inventors in patent applications simply isn’t compatible with US IP law.

“If AIs were inventors, they’d also have to be able to enter into contracts,” Mammen tells the MIT Technology Review. Inventors have other legal rights and responsibilities beyond the capabilities of AI, such as authorizing licenses and initiating lawsuits.

“I won’t dispute that AIs are really good at solving problems and solving them in ways that are new and different and that people could maybe never come up with,” Mammen said. “But as a policy matter, I’m not sure that our patent system is the right tool to reward the development of those kinds of solutions.”

“I won’t dispute that AIs are really good at solving problems and solving them in ways that are new and different and that people could maybe never come up with...but as a policy matter, I’m not sure that our patent system is the right tool to reward the development of those kinds of solutions.”

-CHRIS MAMMEN

The question of AI patent inventorship already has come up in the UK and EU. In 2019, Imagination Engines filed patents for two inventions and listed the Dabus AI system as the inventor on the applications. Both the UK and EU patent offices rejected the applications because no human inventor was listed on the applications.