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The rapid emergence of new and innovative technology has disrupted traditional practices, especially in the medical industry. One of the developments with a substantial amount of potential is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical applications. Because the use of AI has increased in aspects of the medical field from diagnostics to treatment, more individuals and companies are looking to develop new applications and algorithms to conduct the work more efficiently and effectively. As a result of this growing competition, the patent system has been subjected to more pressure to operate at a faster pace and also reconsider previous rulings.


AI Applications in Medicine

Artificial intelligence has been the subject of fascination and development for some time now, but recent decades have witnessed a drastic increase of attention directed toward the medical industry in terms of applications. Among these applications, some of the most popular include neural networks, evolutionary computation, and medical imaging.

Neural networks have proven useful in identifying abnormalities by drawing on examples of healthy and unhealthy individuals; one such application, for example, was able to accurately distinguish between benign and malignant skin lesions with an accuracy that was on par with dermatologists. Applying AI in the medical field serves to aid in diagnostics, provide a better idea of appropriate treatments, and generally ensure accuracy in professional interpretations. 


AI & The Patent System

With new products, methods, and applications of technology constantly emerging in the medical industry, it should come as no surprise that inventors want to patent their discoveries and inventions as soon as possible. In the U.S.A., however, patenting medical AI has become a complicated issue in regards to ethics and autonomy. Since the first cases pertaining to genetic testing, diagnostics, and treatment prescription, many cases have been heard in regards to patents requested for new or developing technology.

Established criteria for the validity of AI applications and medical processes include determining whether the proposed claim occurs organically in nature or is an abstract idea (when relating to computer functions). If a claim relates to AI processes, for instance, that simply mimic human thought or come to the same conclusions a human thought process could naturally arrive at, the courts will not find the claim compelling enough to issue a patent. The criteria are slow to change, and patent law does not appeal to be advancing as quickly as medical AI is.


The guidelines for medical AI in patent law are strict, and some opponents suggest that the pace at which patent law changes is not conducive to the rapid pace accompanying medical AI development. Even so, it seems that the law will be open to more AI patents as the technology continues to advance in ways that surpass the limits of human cognition, diagnostics, and more.