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EPO Berlin office to become centre of expertise on Artificial Intelligence


24th Jan 2020

In June 2019, the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office, Korean Intellectual Property Office), the China National Intellectual Property Administration and United States Patent and Trademark Office, collectively the “IP5”, launched a joint task force on New Emerging Technologies and Artificial Intelligence.

The task force’s first meeting was held 15/16 January 2020 in Berlin, which the European Patent Office plan to develop into a centre of expertise on Artificial Intelligence. At the first meeting, the EPO Vice-President for Legal and International Affairs acknowledged the ubiquitous nature of artificial intelligence and other new emerging technologies and the challenges that presents in intellectual property.

By taking stock of ongoing work in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and new emerging technologies (NET), the task force has set out a list of areas for possible future IP5 co-operation. At present, the EPO generally tackles AI related patent applications using its computed implemented invention approach. As well as considering how AI and NET could be exploited to deliver efficiencies in office operation and user services, the task force is focussed on ways of promoting legal certainty, establish clear guidance and support users in protecting AI and NET related inventions. Outreach to interested parties is under consideration with several different mechanisms under consideration.

The task force builds on earlier work by the IP5 exploring the impact of AI, the output of which includes a “Report of the IP5 expert round table on artificial intelligence” downloadable from the fiveIPoffices’ website here. That IP5 report commented “Overall, the patent system seems to be adequately equipped to resolve issues relevant to the patenting of current AI technologies” and included an excellent summary of current IP5 requirements on inventorship, patent eligibility, sufficiency and inventive step for AI related applications. The recent rejections of the DABUS cases by the EPO (rejecting European patent applications naming an AI as the sole inventor) should not be a surprise to anyone who had consulted the report which details “All IP5 jurisdictions require that the inventor is a human being”.

Whether the DABUS cases support the sign post in the IP5 report “If AI technologies cease to be a mere tool for inventors and begin actively making decisions autonomously, the patent system may need to reconsider the development, ownership, transfer and exercise of rights” and prompt the IP5, or its individual member patent offices, to reconsider and adjust its approach to AI related patent applications is not clear. AI inventorship is currently, and is expected to remain, a hot topic. The scoping document from the IP5 AI and NET task force expected in June might signpost any changes being envisioned by the various patent offices.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

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Julie Richardson
Partner
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