Technology has been changing the way that people shop for years. Over the past decade, e-commerce platforms and social media applications have allowed forward-looking brands and retailers to embrace technology to meet consumer needs and expectations. Today, through augmented reality shopping experiences, virtual reality mirrors in dressing rooms, and the development of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to predict style trends, technology continues to create a more efficient and innovative fashion sector. Just last month, designer and Hanifa founder, Anifa Avuemba, debuted her latest collection through 3D representations on Instagram Live. With majority of fashion events and shows currently cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, technology continues to expand what is possible in the fashion sector.
The majority of technology and e-commerce platforms have been investing in research and development in the fashion tech space for a numbers of years. In 2017, Amazon began developing a fashion design-specific AI initiative, which creates garment designs that can then be physically manufactured by humans. In developing this initiative, the question of who created the designs became a predominate concern.
This past year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and other trademark offices around the world, began to assess the considerations in naming a machine as an inventor. DABUS, which is short for “Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience”, is an AI system that was listed as the inventor in this patent application. The USPTO issued a decision refusing to award the patent on the basis that American patent law requires that an inventor be a natural person – a requirement that is not met by AI. The USPTO specifically asserted that interpreting patent inventors to encompass machines would “contradict the plain reading of the patent statutes that refer to persons and individuals”.
With tech giants like Amazon growing and expanding their reach in the fashion industry, it is not surprising that initiatives such as Amazon’s “AI designer” have come to fruition. Though the USPTO rejected DABUS as an inventor, questions still remain as to whether AI as an inventor may be accepted in other jurisdictions, specifically in Canada. And if so, how will AI designers impact the current traditional landscape of how human designers and natural persons currently create and disseminate their designs with retailers and in the fashion industry more broadly?
With the current pandemic encouraging retailers to grow their online presence, it will be interesting to see how the global fashion landscape recovers, pivots, and hopefully innovates, from the opportunities that may now be more readily available in its intersection with technology.
Written by Alessia Monastero, IPilogue editor and articling student at Deeth Williams Wall LLP.