Facing an influx of ChatGPT imitators, OpenAI is looking to specifically trademark the "GPT" part of its name, TechCrunch reports.
It's an eyebrow-raising decision, given the company's non-profit and open source — hence "Open" — roots.
The initialism-turned-suffix, which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, has quickly become synonymous with AI chatbots looking to capitalize on OpenAI's success, like Elon Musk's "TruthGPT."
In addition, as TechCrunch notes, a number of parties have applied for trademarks with names like "ThreatGPT" and "MedicalGPT" in recent months — so it's fair to say that OpenAI is starting to feel the pressure.
The Sam Altman-led company applied for a trademark for "GPT" with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) back in December, and even urged the office in a petition to fast-track its application.
To OpenAI's chagrin, the request for a speedier process was dismissed last week because its lawyers screwed up some pretty basic protocols.
According to the office, not only did OpenAI forget to pay a fee for the petition, it also outright neglected to provide any "appropriate documentary evidence supporting the justification of special action."
Making the Case
Given the setback, it now means that OpenAI may have to wait up to five months before the USPTO reaches a decision, intellectual property attorney Jefferson Scher told TechCrunch.
That's practically a lifetime in an industry that continues to blaze ahead, and Scher adds that there's "no guarantee" that OpenAI could end up owning the "GPT" trademark.
Still, there are a lot of factors working in OpenAI's favor. There's precedent for abbreviated names like "GPT" being trademarked as a brand name. Scher cites IBM as an example, which was once short for "International Business Machines."
In addition, Scher argues that OpenAI's growing fame may play a big role in the decision. If OpenAI can argue that "GPT" is a legally "famous" trademark, the company could move to ban its use in spheres beyond the tech world, too.
And Scher isn't going to bet against OpenAI, either. "We've crossed a line where GPT is not three random letters," he said. "If a [startup] was asking me if it was safe to adopt it, I would say it's not safe."
At the end of the day, it's easy to understand OpenAI's motivations, but this sort of protective behavior is a far cry from the open source, non-profit company that was promised at its inception eight years ago.
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