In the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence (AI), it's crucial to maintain an open and collaborative environment for innovation. However, recent events have raised concerns within the AI community, once such is the battle for the GPT trademark last month, read about it here.
But another flew under the radar it seems, that is the term "Prompt Engineering" has been trademarked in February 2023, potentially hindering the free exchange of ideas and collaboration. This article examines the controversial trademark and calls for the AI community to take action to preserve the open nature of the industry.
The Trademark in Question
The term "Prompt Engineering" has been used widely within the AI community for several years, particularly in the context of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning model development. The process of designing and crafting text prompts to guide a machine learning model's output is known as prompt engineering. It's an essential aspect of AI development and has been utilized by numerous parties in the field.
Surprisingly, a recent trademark registration for "Prompt Engineering" has been filed and approved. The registration covers the use of the term in connection with artificial intelligence and NLP services under International Class 42. This development has raised concerns within the AI community, as many believe the term to be generic and descriptive, rather than a unique identifier for a specific company's goods or services.
The trademark details for "Prompt Engineering" are as follows:
- Word Mark: PROMPT ENGINEERING
- Goods and Services: IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: The trademark covers artificial intelligence services, particularly natural language processing. "Prompt engineering" refers to the process of designing and crafting text prompts for machine learning models.
- First Use and First Use in Commerce: The registrant claims the first use of the mark on January 1, 2019, and the first use in commerce on January 1, 2022.
- Mark Drawing Code: (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
- Serial Number: 97789419
- Filing Date: February 10, 2023
- Current Basis and Original Filing Basis: Both are listed as 1A, indicating the applicant claims to have used the mark in commerce already.
- Owner: The applicant is THE TRUSTEES OF THE PROMPT ENGINEERING IRREVOCABLE TRUST, a Maryland state corporation.
- Disclaimer: The applicant disclaims exclusive rights to the use of "Prompt Engineering" apart from the mark as shown, meaning they don't claim rights to the term outside the context of the specific goods and services.
- Type of Mark: SERVICE MARK
- Register: The mark is listed on the Principal Register, which offers the highest level of trademark protection.
- Live/Dead Indicator: The trademark is currently LIVE and active.
Implications for the AI Community
The trademarking of "Prompt Engineering" could have significant consequences for the AI community. If the trademark owner seeks to enforce their rights, companies and researchers using the term in connection with their AI and NLP services might face legal challenges or be forced to rebrand. This could stifle collaboration and the open exchange of ideas, hindering progress and innovation in the field.
Moreover, the fact that "Prompt Engineering" was widely used before the trademark registration and there is no evidence of use by the registrant raises questions about the validity of the trademark. Trademark law generally does not grant protection to generic terms, as they are considered common and descriptive of an entire category of goods or services. If "Prompt Engineering" is indeed generic, the trademark registration may be subject to challenge and cancellation.
- Genericness: As the term "Prompt Engineering" has been widely used within the AI community before trademark registration, it may be considered generic. Trademark law generally does not grant protection to generic terms, as they are common and descriptive of an entire category of goods or services.
- Prior Use by Other Parties: The term "Prompt Engineering" has been used by various parties in the AI community before the registrant's claimed first use and first use in commerce dates. This prior use could potentially challenge the validity of the trademark registration.
- Lack of Evidence of Use by the Registrant: There is no evidence of the registrant using the term "Prompt Engineering" online, raising questions about the validity of their claimed first use and first use in commerce dates.
- Potential Impact on the AI Community: The trademark registration may hinder the open exchange of ideas and collaboration in the AI community. If the trademark owner seeks to enforce their rights, companies and researchers using the term in connection with their AI and NLP services may face legal challenges or be forced to rebrand.
Impact on AI Companies and Community
The trademark registration of "Prompt Engineering" may have significant consequences for small AI companies and individuals who offer prompt engineering services or use the term as part of their name. These implications may include:
- Legal challenges: Small AI companies and individuals may face legal challenges from the trademark owner if they continue using the term "Prompt Engineering" in their services or name. The trademark owner could potentially claim that the use of the term infringes on their trademark rights, leading to cease and desist letters or lawsuits.
- Rebranding: To avoid potential legal disputes, small AI companies and individuals might have to rebrand their services or change their names, removing any reference to "Prompt Engineering." Rebranding can be a costly and time-consuming process, particularly for smaller businesses with limited resources.
- Loss of recognition and reputation: Small AI companies and individuals who have built a reputation and established a customer base using the term "Prompt Engineering" may suffer a significant loss in recognition if they are forced to rebrand. This loss of recognition could negatively impact their business and customer relationships.
- Barriers to market entry: For small AI companies and individuals looking to enter the market, the trademark registration could create an additional barrier. They may need to come up with alternative names or descriptions for their services, making it more difficult to establish themselves and compete in the market.
- Increased legal costs: Smaller AI companies and individuals may need to consult with trademark attorneys or legal experts to understand the potential risks and implications of using the term "Prompt Engineering." These consultations can be expensive and may divert resources away from other essential business functions.
- Hindrance to collaboration and innovation: The trademark registration could discourage small AI companies and individuals from openly discussing or collaborating on prompt engineering techniques, fearing potential legal repercussions. This hindrance could ultimately slow down the pace of innovation within the AI community.
- Loss of domain: The trademark owner could potentially leverage their rights to claim ownership of domains or websites using the term "Prompt Engineering," forcing small AI companies and individuals to relinquish their online presence. In addition, they may lose their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, negatively impacting their online visibility and reach.
A Call to Action
In light of these concerns, it's essential for the AI community to come together and take action. The community must raise awareness about the potential negative implications of the "Prompt Engineering" trademark and gather evidence of its prior and widespread use. Collaborating with experienced trademark attorneys, the AI community can challenge the trademark registration and work towards preserving the open and innovative environment that has fueled the growth of AI.
By challenging the registration and advocating for an open and collaborative environment, the AI community can help protect the interests of small companies and individuals in the field.
The controversial trademark of "Prompt Engineering" highlights the need for vigilance and unity within the AI community. By working together and challenging the trademark, the community can ensure that the field of AI remains open, collaborative, and conducive to innovation. As artificial intelligence continues to advance, it is crucial to safeguard the principles that have made it possible: openness, collaboration, and the free exchange of ideas.