January 01, 2017

Protecting Artificial-Intelligence Systems Using Patent Applications

Christopher White and Hamid R. Piroozi

The inventors of the screwdriver would have had no trouble describing their invention in a patent application. They had a bit, a shaft, and a handle—and it’s not hard to show how those fit together. Their patent application would have handily met the statutory “enablement” requirement to explain how to make the invention, under 35 USC §112(a), in exchange for patent rights. The same goes for inventors building better mousetraps: they are easy to understand and easy to describe. It is harder to meet the enablement requirement for a new machine tool you have invented, and harder still for a jet engine or a complicated computer program. But for artificial-intelligence (AI) inventions, such as the Netflix movie-recommendation system, Section 112 may seem like an insurmountable barrier. How do you explain how to make a system that learns and grows as it operates? Yet this is what patent attorneys and agents in the AI field must do to meet growing client demand.

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