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| 2 minutes read

ChatGPT: Are patent attorneys out of a job?

OpenAI recently released their latest GPT-3 chatbot to the public, and since then there have been many impressive demonstrations of its use. What I found particularly impressive was how well the model was able to generate and debug computer code based on very little user input. OpenAI achieved this feat in part by fine-tuning their already impressive GPT-3.5 model using a human led reinforcement learning training scheme.

In this article, the author discusses whether ChatGPT may be a viable alternative to a human lawyer. The takeaway seems to be that ChatGPT is capable of summarizing legal precedents and providing answers to objective questions of law, but is limited in its ability to interpret the law.

I tested ChatGPT myself to see how it responded to fairly basic questions on the European Patent Convention, and the results were varied. In one question, I asked “What is Article 84 EPC?”, and ChatGPT replied with an accurate summary of the law and a sentence describing its purpose; not too bad. However, in my second question I then asked the more complicated question “Is natural language processing excluded from patentability at the EPO?”. What I received in reply was the generic Article 52 EPC criteria for patentability, with no consideration of EPO case law and nothing from the Guidelines for Examination. Further questions that I asked followed a similar pattern.

Given that interpretation is one of the main functions of any lawyer, it is quite clear that ChatGPT is not capable of putting lawyers out of a job quite yet. It is interesting to note that in every exchange, ChatGPT would include a statement to the effect of “you should consult a patent attorney in your own country”. This clearly indicates that ChatGPT is not intended as a replacement to a qualified legal professional. Referring back to the original article, the author notes that ChatGPT offered its own critique stating that “It is not ethical for me to provide legal advice as I am not a qualified legal professional”.

In my personal opinion, having worked on many applied AI projects myself, I am quite aware of the roadblocks that prevent the realization of the so-called AI lawyer. With this being said, I am also very much aware of the benefits that AI can bring to the legal sector. What I see as the future for AI in this space is a number of AI based tools which assist legal professionals, making their jobs easier and more efficient. It would be impossible to conclude that a chatbot could functionally replace the role of a patent attorney, even one as impressive as ChatGPT. As a starting point to bringing automation to this sector, there are numerous opportunities for simpler and less complex AI systems that can help legal professionals carry out their day job in a more efficient manner than ChatGPT.

"It is not ethical for me to provide legal advice as I am not a qualified legal professional" - ChatGPT


artificial intelligence, patents, digital transformation, open source & third party code