AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a revolutionary technology, which is being a part of everything we do in our life on a daily basis. If we talk about a few decades ago, there were tasks that could only be done by humans, such as playing chessboard, doing research work etc, but nowadays, AI-based Machines are capable of doing these tasks. And soon, AI will be developed to the level that it will change the way we work, study and communicate.
Moreover, if we will talk about patent offices worldwide, every year the number of filings of the patent applications in patent offices is increasing exponentially and the patent examiners have limited time to work on a patent application.
So due to these reasons, the quality of patents is getting compromised. Further, to know more about the patent office system and the role of AI in the patent office system lets discuss the problems in the patent offices and what possible solutions can be implemented to improve those problems.
Problems in the Patent Office
1) Exponential increment in the number of filings every year
Every year the number of filings of the patent applications in the patent office is increasing exponentially. For example, from the last few years, the USPTO has been receiving hundreds of thousands (more than 6 lac) of applications every year.
2) Insufficient review time for the Patent Examiner
Patent examiners in the patent offices usually have a limited time for reviewing an application. Within the limited time, the examiner has to read the application, search for prior art, compare the prior art with the application, write a rejection, respond to the arguments (by the applicant), and conduct an interview with the attorney of the applicant. For example, on average, a U.S. patent examiner spends only eighteen hours reviewing an application.
3) Poor patents are granted
Due to the unavailability of enough time for reviewing the applications, examiners are unable to spend considerable time reviewing applications.
Hence they are unable to reject applications and give justifications with relevant underlying legal validity.
Further, since the applications are generally presumed valid, the examiner must grant/issue the patent if he/she cannot claim the presumption within the time given for the examination.
4) Delay in the final disposition (allowance or final rejection)
Considering the growth in the filing of hundreds of thousands of applications every year by the patent office, we can say that the overall workload on each examiner is indeed very high. Due to this overall process of a patent application is getting delayed and the applicants usually wait for two or more years before receiving a final disposition (allowance or final rejection) on their patent application.
1) Increase the Strength of examiners
By increasing the strength of examiners (increase the number of examiners) some of the above-mentioned problems could be sorted out. But, increasing the number of examiners would be a trade-off with overall costing to the patent office.
2) Integrate AI in Patent Office System
AI integration in the patent office system can improve the system in the following manners:
- Reduce the examiner’s time spent in prior art search. It is determined that AI can decrease two to four days of the prior art research to one-to-two hours search.
- Assist the examiners to do the prior art searches so that they can use their limited time in a better way in the further prosecution process.
- Streamline the whole review process of patent applications.
- Increase the examiner’s ability to find fraud information or any information which is already published.
- Automatic classification of the patents and assign them to the correct examiners.
- AI technology has been advanced to the level that it is beyond the level of just comparing the words in a patent application to those in other patent records.
- AI can differentiate/compare/match a whole patent’s content against millions of other patent records to identify relevant prior arts which will be very helpful for the examiners.
- Reduce tedious other administrative work.
- Improve operational output, customer services, reduce cost and boost revenue.
So, in this way, AI will reduce the overall time taken by the examiner to review a patent application, improve the quality of granting patents and boost-up the overall process in the patent office system.
Challenges in implementing AI in patent offices
AI technology is based on learning data patterns and making quick decisions based on those data patterns. However, the patterns can be misled by anyone who desires to rule the software. Recently, in some cases, AI failed to perform the task for which it was configured to do. So, we can say that the AI in itself, might not be sufficient for granting quality patents, but it could be a tool that can assist the patent office system in many ways, as discussed above.
After the detailed discussions on the problems of the patent office system and their possible solutions, we have concluded that increasing the number of patent examiners only or integrating AI in the patent office system alone cannot be a complete solution for the problems of the patent office system.
Because increasing the number of patent examiners would be a trade-off with overall costing and integration of AI in the patent office system could not be a reliable system since it can be misleading, as already discussed.
But patent examiners along with innovative tools (based on AI) could be a better solution which can help patent examiners to get their job done quickly, reliably and efficiently.
Hence a blend of human and machine intelligence.