Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Patents
A patent is a grant of exclusive rights given by the U.S. government to an inventor who has invented something, for example, a hairdryer, toaster, razor, telephone, etc.. The extraordinary progress in the world of new inventions and art can largely be given to the granting of patents rights which promotes innovation and the exchanging of ideas. The first official patent statute was created in 1790 and since then, the United States has been a booming birthplace for many amazing inventions. Although the granting of patent rights has been mostly beneficial, the process of having a patent approved is oftentimes lengthy and arduous. In a society where technological innovation is at its height, this can negatively impact this industry’s growth.
First, in order to apply, you have to have an original, non-obvious and useful idea. Once you submit your patent application, it becomes the job of the USPTO to approve or deny it. An examiner will go through your application, thoroughly, and assess whether it is in fact novel, useful and non-obvious. This entire process can take up to two years to complete because it requires the examiner to compare each and every application to the already approved patents -- which is well into the millions. Just to get an idea of how long this process actually takes → there are almost 600,000 unreviewed patent applications. This poses a potential problem because patent applicants want exclusive rights to their inventions so they can, comfortably and securely, being manufacturing and putting out their products.
After your part as an applicant is finished, it now becomes the job of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, to file through any existing patents to make sure that your idea is original. This can take up to two years to complete, which is why the current system is so flawed. Patent applicants want exclusive rights to their inventions so they can begin manufacturing and putting out their products. The amount of time it takes for the USPTO to make sure your invention is unique severely impedes on this process. First the office must examine your application in order to make sure it is complete and includes all the information you need to successfully apply for a patent.
This lengthy, complicated, and frankly inefficient process, begs the question of what can be done to improve and speed up the patent approval process? One idea that was brought to the table is integrating the use of artificial intelligence (“A.I.”) into the patent approval process. There are a lot of benefits to incorporating A.I. into the patent approval process. Due to it’s extremely efficient, supercomputer brain, A.I. can “think” and work faster than even the smartest human. It processes algorithms and solves problems in the blink of an eye which reduces project time exponentially.
Essentially, the USPTO would incorporate an A.I. system in which the programmers would register existing patents and use this database to refer back to when a new application came through. For instance, if an application came through for a new type of coffee cup, using the dimensions and structural aspects that are explained in its diagram, the system would be able to look at this using a recognition software and compare it to the new application to see if it is unique enough to be differentiated from any existing patents; this is essentially doing most of the examiner’s job. The examiner would simply just have to cross check the patent application with any similar already approved patents that were flagged by the system. This poses a much more efficient process.
The use of A. I. could be a major breakthrough in the world of patents. Although it may be costly, initially, to implement, once it is in place, it could potentially save the USPTO and patent applicants a lot of money. The timeline between applying for a patent and receiving a decision would be significantly shortened because of this system, which is good news for you as a possible patent applicant! It will no longer years to get a patent approved -- with the use of A.I. it could potentially be much more reasonable.
Another benefit to this new incorporation of technology would be its ability to categorize current patents into a more comprehensive system that makes prior art easier to find, not just for the examiners but the general public as well. Creating an algorithm that would allow examiners to find the information they are looking for could greatly benefit the USPTO in time, efficiency and organization.
This project could cost the USPTO hundreds of thousands of dollars initially to even get the ball rolling on this one, but once it is implemented, the UPSTO will undoubtedly save money from the significant drop in manpower needed to file through all the patents, and, additionally, patent application fees could possibly be reduced, as well as the patent approval process being shortened. That’s why you, as a possible future patent applicant, should be paying attention to this! As far as you’re concerned, A.I. is a good thing!
While all of this seems great, there are some possible negatives to the transition. The first would be the initial cost to create it. This would be a major setback for the USPTO at first, as the investment isn’t even guaranteed to be worth it. The possibility of error makes this purchase a very reluctant one. What if it doesn’t work and then the system requires more maintenance and more money to be put into it? This is a cause for concern, and are they willing to take the risk? The system could also experience less patent applications getting approved because the A.I. system is more adequately classifying and logging the current patents. There could also be a possibility for job loss, as the system becomes more advanced and developed -- the need for so many examiners may not be so high.
Keep your eyes peeled in the years to come, to see if they go through with this decision to incorporate A.I. technology into the patent approval process. They are currently taking inquiries from A.I. companies until November to decide which one to actually partner with, but they do seem very adamant on making this transition. We are excited to see the way USPTO trail blazes this new frontier in the years to come.