The US Patent and Trademark Office was founded way back in the day—1975, to be specific. When the process was first founded, it was a very different time—the US patent process was meant to help individual inventors, small businesses could afford patents, and you didn’t need a lot of $$$ to get a patent.
Of course, there weren’t any patents on AI (artificial intelligence) back in the 1970s. Machines were just being invented – and they certainly weren’t smart enough for machine learning. And deep neural networks weren’t even a twinkle in a technologist’s eye. Both technology and the US patent process have become far more complex.
Although technology has become more affordable for entrepreneurs and startups, the patent process hasn’t. The US patent process has become complex—so complex, to the extent that it can block creative innovators from getting a patent.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is partly to blame. It’s become a huge labyrinthine of bureaucracy. If you have a burning question, try to find the answer from the USPTO can be frustrating. For example, here’s the page on what a provisional application is. You can find out about the different laws and what you don’t need for a provisional. Ironically, what you won’t find out is actually how to apply for one.
And don’t get me started on trying to call the USPTO on the phone.
But to be honest, the patent business model is also to blame. Charging by the hour means that patent attorneys have no reason to be efficient. In fact, they make more money if they’re effectively inefficient. That ends in you, the inventor, paying a lot more money than you should.
It gets much worse for AI patents. AI is so new that there’s even more uncertainty about the best way to proceed. Some AI patents show an explicit neural network structure. But some don’t. Some describe the functions of the AI engine in terms of results to be achieved. But others focus more specifically on the type of AI involved.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But, it isn’t hopeless. You can overcome the broken patent system and protect your valuable AI idea. Here’s how.
Three Ways You Can Overcome the Broken AI Patent Process
The first way that you can overcome the broken AI patent process is through knowledge. The more you know, the more you can make the patent process work for you. And you can overcome the pitfalls of the process.
The second way to overcome the broken AI patent process is by seeking out patent firms that won’t bust your budget. Ask in advance for a fixed price package. Beware of vague estimates that aren’t fixed – these can easily lead to a patent price that’s over budget. And definitely don’t fall for “pay-by-the-hour” plan– you’ll never know how much your patent will cost!
Finally, the third way to overcome the broken AI patent process – and protect your AI idea – is to think about all of the variations on your idea. How many different ways could your idea be implemented? What might a competitor do in order to use your idea – but just make it a little different?
If you proactively think of all the ways to develop protection for your patent, it will be that much stronger. This is especially important in a rapidly developing area like AI. You want to anticipate changes in AI before they happen – and own them!