India: Artificial Intelligence: Facets & Its Tussle With IPR

Last Updated: 10 October 2018
Article by Monika Shailesh

A machine, in simple terms, was conceived and devised by man as a contraption to help ease his burden by doing a strenuous job repeatedly at a faster pace. But recall the Hollywood blockbuster, TERMINATOR – the filmmakers had shown machines as intelligent beings that could act on their own, take decisions, create things etc. Back in 1984, when the movie had released, the general perception was that intelligence in machines was just wild imaginations of dreamy filmmakers. But only three decades later, intelligent machines are very much a part of our reality now.

Technological advancements in the field of machine learning have made certain types of machines capable of learning, and performing some tasks on their own. Artificial intelligence is no longer an alien concept. The division of Science which deals with making machines equipped with human-like intelligence to act in human-like fashion and the exhibit human capabilities is known as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Multiple disciplines like Computer Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Mathematics, Biology and Neuron Science contribute to the development of AI.

Ever since the concept of artificial intelligence has come into existence, the world's opinion is divided in two. One group believes that AI can bring about a paradigm shift and will lead to enhanced quality of human life. While the other group believes that AI will surpass all human intellect in all domains and such machines will start re-writing their own software and codes to re-programme themselves to become the strongest entities on earth, and this will mark the end of Homo Sapiens.


AI is experiencing exponential growth, with Google filing one of the first patents on AI back in 2015 and ending that first year by filing 5 more on same subject. Likewise, many other establishments like Fujitsu, IBM, NEC, Microsoft and Siemens have several patents on AI related technologies and the numbers continue to grow with each passing day.3

Not only has AI gained attention of inventors, it has been quite enticing for the investors too. Investments in AI technology show skyrocketing trends. Venture capital firm Accel has announced a 500 million USD pool for various focus areas and AI was on the top of the list. Similarly, New Enterprise Associates and Nervana Associates (which was recently acquired by Intel), have invested billions of dollars in AI. Many believe that the wave of investment and energy being poured into AI is making it mankind's greatest endeavours.

India is also emerging in this sector, with companies like Apple and Salesforce acquiring Indian companies Tuplejump and MetaMind respectively. According to sources, Apple was particularly interested in Tuplejump's 'FiloDB' project, which was capable of quickly analysing bulk amount of complex data. Recently, Salesforce, an American cloud computing company acquired MetaMind, a company that sells natural language processing, computer vision, and database prediction tools and this acquisition is said to bring in millions into the current business space for Salesforce. Interestingly, increasing amounts of funds are being invested in AI start-ups. One such start-up in AI space, Sentient received 143 Million USD at the beginning of this year. Since 2010, almost 967 Million USD have been invested in numerous other AI start-ups. With time this technology is set to develop more, with companies like Facebook opening dedicated AI research labs in different parts of the world.4


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) identified the existence of AI and propounded three categories of AI ,example expert systems, perception systems, and natural-language systems.

  • Expert systems are associated with the fields that require in-depth knowledge and are positive systems such as medical diagnosis, recommendations on treatment, determining geological conditions etc. Expert systems are also used to produce artistic and creative works.
  • Perception Systems are the systems that allow a computer to perceive the world with the sense of sight and hearing. This is used by topologists, word-context experts, etc.

Natural language program is meant to understand the meanings of words, requiring a dictionary database; the noteworthy aspect being that the system takes into consideration different grammatical and textual contexts, to provide a semantic analysis.


Many believe that AI will become so capable in few years that it will be able to develop, file and grant patents, and that will be the real problem and a threat towards the very basic principle of IPR. There have been many discussions and scholarly publications towards the AI's effects on IPR regime. For instance, in the wake of a court decision involving a selfie-taking monkey, the United States Copyright Office updated its interpretation of "authorship" in 2016 to clarify that it will not register works produced by a machine or a mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically. It stressed that copyright law only protects "the fruits of intellectual labour" that are "founded in the creative powers of the mind".5

As per the European Union draft report of the European Parliament to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics" humanity may be at risk of "AI [surpassing] human intellectual capacity". To avoid this danger, the draft report stresses the importance of humanity maintaining the capacity to control its own creations." 6 .

There have been numerous high degree computational creative innovations until now and this has sparked debates all over the world for the re-examination of copyright standards for AIs.

A ruling from the San Francisco court denying copyright request for a selfie taking macaque monkey represents the stand towards AI also.

Various copyright offices across the world have already mentioned that they won't register machine produced work. On similar lines confusion may arise when novel inventions are created by AI enabled machines. Without any human intervention, who will own the patents on novel inventions filed by AI machines? Will the machine/robot be the owner of future inventions? When ownership rights are distributed amongst different entities, which entity will be able to enforce such rights. And if an AI plagiarizes a creation or reproduces an invention, how will damages be determined? These are a few basic but puzzling questions which Patent laws now face.

Under U.S Patent Law, an 'inventor' is defined as an individual or a set of individuals who invent or discover the subject matter of the invention.7 This definition eliminates patent grant to inventions to anything else besides humans. However, the ever-increasing involvement of AI in developing new technology has led the world to revisit the patent laws. Such perusal can be observed indistinctly in the attempt by the European Union to inspire nations to expand their national laws generally, to accommodate copyrightable works produced by computer and other devices, under the category of own intellectual creation. Though this is a liberal step in the direction of acknowledging creativity exhibited by these systems, while producing poetry, artwork etc., due regard must also be paid to include inventions and application of patents by AI systems and robotics.


In context of patent grants to inventions by machines and AI we first need to understand the basic idea of the patent system. Patents are believed to be a tool that safe guards the rights of the inventor so that he or she can enjoy financial benefits out of it. This is a sort of motivation that the state provides to inventors to produce new and improved works. Some have contended that granting patent rights to AIgenerated inventions would fast-track innovation, even enabling advances that would not have been possible through human ingenuity alone. Others have argued that patent rights do not promote innovation, irrespective of whether inventions are generated by people or AI. Under this view, more patents, resulting from AI-generated inventions, will increase social costs and monopolies, and stifle the entry of new ventures, thereby hampering innovation. The present situation of AI under IPR is challenging, wherein, acknowledgement of work created by AI is a step towards the future, but its implementation is the real problem.




5  Julia Dickenson, Alex Morgan and Birgit Clark, "Creative machines: ownership of copyright in content created by artificial intelligence applications", European Intellect. Prop. R. 39(8), 457 (2017)


7 Consolidated Patent Laws, § 100 (f), U.S.C 35,

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