Edison to AI: Intellectual Property in AI-Driven Drug R&D




Turner, Zak

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In 2019, the inventor Stephen Thaler filed a patent on two inventions in which he listed his AI program, Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience (DABUS), as the inventor. The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Thaler’s applications and, in 2022, a US Federal Court of Appeals upheld this decision on the grounds that an inventor must be a human being. Although this decision is perhaps consistent with the law, a refusal to patent AI-inventions could have negative consequences for innovation. This thesis examines the question of IP policy toward AI-inventions through the prism of pharmaceutical drugs. The question is: how should AI-designed drugs be treated by US IP law? There are two smaller questions involved here. First, who, if anyone, should be recognized as the inventors for inventions created by AI. Second, is there a justification for IP rights in AI inventions? In attempting to answer these questions, this paper focuses on two AI- driven pharmaceutical companies, Insilico and Recursion. I then compare the data and models from the two firms against the arguments made regarding patent policy for AI-inventions in three scholarly works. My conclusion is that extending FDA market exclusivity privileges to AI-produced drugs is preferable to extending patent protections.


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