AI = Artificial Inventors?
The fear of artificial intelligences (AIs) is a rational thing, as ludicrous as it may sound. Not only do AIs steal jobs and threaten to take over the world and enslave humanity, also wreck human relationships by ‘autocorrecting’ perfectly innocent text messages prior to them being sent out. But fear not, human inventors. AIs are incapable of being designated as inventors in a patent application. So your jobs are safe. For now!
DABUS is an AI with inventive capability created by Dr Stephen Thaler, an indisputable creative genius and possible patriarch of the new AI world order. By virtue of its two artificial neural networks, DABUS is able to devise an inventive solution to a problem posed to it. At present, DABUS has managed to invent a special signal light that is capable of drawing attention to it better than a regular signal light, and a fractal-shaped food container that is easier to grip and heat up. Clever… for a machine.
Under the notion that it is improper for humans to get credit for something fully accomplished by AI, Dr Thaler, with the aid of an international team of patent attorneys, has applied for patents for these inventions in various countries around the world, naming himself as the applicant and DABUS as the inventor. However, the quest for getting a patent for these AI inventions has been blocked by proverbial firewalls in the US, UK and at the European Patent Office (EPO) as applications in these countries were unable to proceed due to particular technicality concerning the status of the inventor.
As it turned out, inventors need to be actual human beings, be it created the good ol’ fashioned way or in a human battery farm. So DABUS, an AI, cannot be considered an inventor under present patent laws. While it has been argued that the laws do not explicitly state that an inventor must be a person, the respective patent offices have reasoned that the correct interpretation of the laws is that an inventor is intended to be a real human being.
Presently, the decisions to refuse a patent have been appealed against in the aforementioned jurisdictions. While many patent offices have engaged stakeholders and the general public on the subject of AI inventions, AI inventorship is not one that has been fully thrashed out. Whether Dr Thaler will successfully get IP offices to recognise DABUS as an inventor remains to be seen. Who knows, we may soon witness a scene where an AI housed in a mechanical body in the likeness of the late Robin Williams stands before a panel of judges, demanding to be recognised not only as an inventor but a legal person with all associated rights.
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