Australian Court Ridiculously Says That AI Can Be An Inventor, Get Patents

from the i'm-sorry-dave,-you-shouldn't-do-that dept

There have been some questions raised about whether or not AI-created works deserve intellectual property protection. Indeed, while we (along with many others) laughed along at the trial about the monkey selfie, we had noted all along, that the law firm pushing to give the monkey (and with it, PETA) the copyright on the photo was almost certainly trying to tee up a useful case to argue that AI can get copyright and patents as well. Thankfully, the courts (and later the US Copyright Office) determined that copyrights require a human author.

The question on patents, however, is still a little hazy (unfortunately). It should be the same as with copyright. The intent of both copyrights and patents is to create incentives (in the form of a “limited” monopoly) for the creation of the new creative work or invention. AI does not need such an incentive (nor do animals). Over the last few years, though, there has been a rush by some who control AI to try to patent AI creations. This is still somewhat up in the air. In the US, the USPTO has (ridiculously) suggested that AI created inventions could be patentable — but then (rightfully) rejected a patent application from an AI. The EU has rejected AI-generated patents.

Unfortunately, it looks like Australia has gone down the opposite path from the EU, after a court ruled that an AI can be an inventor for a patent. The case was brought by the same folks who were denied patents in the EU & US, and who are still seeking AI patents around the globe. Australia’s patent office had followed suit with its EU & US counterparts, but the judge has now sent it back saying that there’s nothing wrong with AI holding patents.

University of Surrey professor Ryan Abbott has launched more than a dozen patent applications across the globe, including in the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia, on behalf of US-based Dr Stephen Thaler. They seek to have Thaler?s artificial intelligence device known as Dabus (a device for the autonomous bootstrapping of unified sentience) listed as the inventor.

Honestly, I remain perplexed by this weird attempt to demand something that makes no sense, though it seems like yet another attempt to scam the system to make money by shaking others down. Once again, AI needs no such incentive to invent, and it makes no sense at all to grant it patents. An AI also cannot assign the patents to others, or properly license a patent. The whole thing is stupid.

It is, however, yet another point to show just how extreme the belief that every idea must be “owned” has become. And it’s incredibly dangerous. Those pushing for this — or the courts and patent offices agreeing with this — don’t seem to have any concept of how badly this will backfire.

And, of course, the reality underlying this, which only underscores how dumb it is, the AI isn’t actually getting the patent. It would go to the guy who “owns” the AI.

Beach said a non-human inventor could not be the applicant of a patent, and as the owner of the system, Thaler would be the owner of any patents that would be granted on inventions by Dabus.

At least some people are recognizing what a total clusterfuck it would be if AI-generated patents were allowed. The Guardian quotes an Australian patent attorney, Mark Summerfield, who raises just one of many valid concerns:

?Allowing machine inventors could have numerous consequences, both foreseeable and unforeseeable. Allowing patents for inventions churned out by tireless machines with virtually unlimited capacity, without the further exercise of any human ingenuity, judgment, or intellectual effort, may simply incentivise large corporations to build ?patent thicket generators? that could only serve to stifle, rather than encourage, innovation overall.?

Unfortunately, as the article notes, it’s not just Australia making this dangerous decision. South Africa just granted DABUS a patent last week as well.

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Comments on “Australian Court Ridiculously Says That AI Can Be An Inventor, Get Patents”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Someone’s working on a program to make random patents display ads on videos, do x on a computer on the Web or on a mobile device, or a program to make music using random notes used in popular songs, then any singer will have to pay patent trolls if they even try to use basic chord sequences in a song computers don’t get tired they can make random music 24, 7
Why should get creative humans get all the money
Patent trolls have bills to pay
There’s already programs that make videos using random fractal effects
What could go wrong

Bobvious says:

And if transferred to copyright realm

So it appears that they kept trying doors until they found one that would open. Now they will work backwards like the MAFIAA and seek "harmonisation" of laws in the countries that rejected them in the first place.

"Your Honor, it has been accepted elsewhere in the world, so it should apply here"

Also, how long will death+75 copyright exist if an AI doesn’t live or die?

Anonymous Coward says:

it seems like yet another attempt to scam the system to make money by shaking others down.

No, it’s just for publicity. Otherwise they’d have listed some token human as the inventor, nobody would’ve questioned it, and they’d have been able to shake others down.

I’ve talked to the "inventors" behind a few software patents. Some company lawyer mined their code for "inventions" and offered them a few-thousand-dollar bonus to write them up and claim them as novel. They find it farcical, "claiming" something any decent programmer would’ve come up with, but they’re not going to turn down free money.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is not forbidden is allowed.

Once again, AI needs no such incentive to invent, and it makes no sense at all to grant it patents.

Once again, the wrong question is being asked. For a judge, the correct question is: Does the law specifically say a patent can only be granted to a human being? Does case law say anything relevant?

Judges don’t make the laws. When the patent laws were created, the thought of a machine, no matter how clever, "inventing" something was (dare I say) unthinkable. And if it hasn’t been touched since…

Andy J says:

Re: What is not forbidden is allowed.

If you and Mike actually read the judgment, that is exactly the question the court had to answer: does Australian patent law prohibit AI being registered as an inventor. Answer: No.
In other words the legislators way back in 1990 (when the Aus Patents Act was passed) failed to look into the future and specifically prevent something they had not imagined. Pretty dumb huh?

charliebrown (profile) says:

More Sensible

There should be a distinction, I think, where if you program a computer to help you create something, you can have the patent on something. But if a computer has the idea all on it’s own then it should be public domain.

Of course, hwo you you differentiate between a programmer getting computer assistance to create something and a computer creating something of it’s own accord? And, also, if you give a computer a patent, what happens when that computer dies? Many home computers are no longer in service after a few years, although I know business can hang on to systems for decades.

So if you apply for a patent based on something you recieved computer based assistance to create, obviously including AI, then you can get it (all things being otherwise normal).

Then again, if you programmed the computer, you would have to either be the program’s full author or share the patent with the software author, because all you did was enter the paramaters …. wait, here’s another rabbit hole.

You know what? Just forget I said anything here! I’m trying to be a voice of reason but I’m not a lawyer so anything I say is probably technically unreasonable. Well NYAH to technology and arseholes!

Anonymous Coward says:

A computer can go thru all previous patents and make up random patents using legal language pc device plus wireless device customer billing app server etc making patent thickets to stop real inventors making patents
There seems to be no limit that corporations will go to make money even if it screws up markets for the public and makes life more complex or expensive by reducing competition by
There’s a reason why ai can’t get us patents

Shaur says:

Why do we care about who the patent creator's are?

Why do we care about who the patent creator’s are?

If we the patent is good*, why should we care? We get the intended benefit of the patent system. In the same way we do if a corporation files and gains a patent.

The difference is that a copyright is about expression and novelty.

A patent is (or should be) about useful discovery.

*The problem with AI patents being granted isn’t the AI; its about granting bad patents, which is a problem even if a human’s name is on the form.

Thenom says:

The trick behind obtaining a patent for an AI is to get the money from the use of the patent (if it will be any money, but an AI can generate thousants of "ideas" that can be patented) without being responsible for the consequences of the use ("Hey, the AI created it, not me.").
The idealistic business plan: profit without any responsability. Very suitable for pharma, food industry, weapon industry.

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