EU Patent Office Rejects Two Patent Applications In Which An AI Was Designated As The Inventor

from the watch-this-space dept

We've written a bunch about why AI generated artwork should not (and need not) have any copyright at all. The law says that copyright only applies to human creators. But what about patents? There has been a big debate about this in the patent space over the last year, mainly lead by AI developers who want to be able to secure patents on AI generated ideas. The patent offices in the EU and the US have been exploring the issue, and asking for feedback, while they plot out a strategy, but some AI folks decided to force the matter sooner. Over the summer they announced that they had filed for two patents in the EU for inventions that they claim were "invented" by an AI named DABUS without the assistance of a human inventor.

And now, the EU Patent Office has rejected both patents, since they don't have a human inventor.

The EPO has refused two European patent applications in which a machine was designated as inventor. Both patent applications indicate “DABUS” as inventor, which is described as “a type of connectionist artificial intelligence”. The applicant stated that they acquired the right to the European patent from the inventor by being its successor in title.

After hearing the arguments of the applicant in non-public oral proceedings on 25 November the EPO refused EP 18 275 163 and EP 18 275 174 on the grounds that they do not meet the requirement of the EPC that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being, not a machine. A reasoned decision may be expected in January 2020.

Frankly, this is the right decision and its one that I hope patent offices around the globe recognize and continue to keep this line in place. I fear that this will actually kick off the process that comes to the opposite conclusion, and that patent offices will change the rules to allow for AI-generated patents.

The problem, yet again, is in people's misguided belief that everything must be owned by someone, and that somehow without a patent it is impossible to successfully commercialize or market a product. There is tremendous evidence to the contrary (including just by looking at products after their patents run out -- which is often a time when more innovation occurs, since there's greater competition driving improvements). But, instead, you hear nonsense like the following from Prof. Ryan Abbott, who helped file the two now rejected patents, arguing that without patents, somehow these inventions might not come to be:

Abbott and his team believe that powerful AI systems could eventually find cures for cancer or find workable solutions for reversing climate change. “If outdated IP laws around the world don’t respond quickly to the rise of the inventive machine, the lack of incentive for AI developers could stand in the way of a new era of spectacular human endeavor,” Abbott said.

But why? AI doesn't need the monopoly control as incentive to create an invention. That's not what motivates the AI. What's wrong with just letting the AI come up with those cures for cancer and workable solutions for reversing climate change and just giving them to the world to make the world a better place?

Filed Under: ai, dabus, epo, eu, humans, incentives, ownership, patents, ryan abbott


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  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:01am

    What causes Skynet? This causes Skynet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:21am

    ... because the most efficient way to rid Earth of human-generated global warming is to rid Earth of humans?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:28am

    Next we will see a rush of patents assigned to the CEOs of companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      Next we will see a rush of patents assigned to the CEOs of companies.

      As I understand it, that's kind of what Thomas Edison did by claiming to be the inventor of things that were actually invented by his employees.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:38am

    Because

    But why? AI doesn't need the monopoly control as incentive to create an invention. That's not what motivates the AI. What's wrong with just letting the AI come up with those cures for cancer and workable solutions for reversing climate change and just giving them to the world to make the world a better place?

    Because that doesn't make corporations and their execs filthy stinking rich off the backs of other people who do the actual work. You're requiring THEM to do the work instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:41am

      Re: Because

      Extended - lawyers want to buy an AI and then sit back while it generates patent after patent after patent, and then collect the rent while producing nothing. Why pay engineers/scientists an actual salary to (slowly) come up with patents when an AI can churn them out 24/7 without pay?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:43am

    So patents might be given to the person who writes the ai software,
    a programmer has copyright on the code they write ,
    theres no need for ai patent,s .
    At this point we need less patents on software .
    more patents = less competition and more power given to patent trolls,
    ai is code , it needs no incentive to do anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 6:42am

    'Honestly, without money why would care?'

    Abbott and his team believe that powerful AI systems could eventually find cures for cancer or find workable solutions for reversing climate change. “If outdated IP laws around the world don’t respond quickly to the rise of the inventive machine, the lack of incentive for AI developers could stand in the way of a new era of spectacular human endeavor,” Abbott said.

    Kinda shot themselves in the foot there with a telling argument, as like it or not they basically said that unless there was a profit to be made they can't imagine why someone would want to work on a cure for cancer and/or climate change. When trying to garner sympathy it helps to make arguments that aren't blatantly sociopathic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 6:49am

      Freakin writer's blindness...

      'Honestly, without money why would we care?'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:23am

      Re: 'Honestly, without money why would care?'

      That would be socialism!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2020 @ 9:26am

      Re: 'Honestly, without money why would care?'

      Unfortunately, this decision won't change a thing. In future, the AI-operators just won't tell anyone an AI invented it. Pharmaceutical companies have long been using computers to search for promising substances that they then claim patents on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 6:59am

    But why AI won't be able to get patents?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 8:02am

    I look forward to the Starving AI Artist signs

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhajicek (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 8:12am

    AIs won't even load and run without assistance. Impossible for one to invent something without assistance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:37am

    What incentive do they need? If an actual AI* can be granted a patent, the AI is a free being and any company and developers can have a big middle finger.

    *There is no such thing as an AI. AI is a field of study. AI wankers just keep redefining AI, like 4G, so what they have fits the definition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:18pm

      Re:

      That could be an entertaining counter-offer to make.

      'Patents can only be granted to beings classified as a 'person', which previously only applied to humans. If you want an AI to get a patent then we'll grant it, alongside personhood, and now you get to deal with the fun of paying it and otherwise treating it as the equivalent of an adult human, as treating it as you currently do(no rights, no salary, considered company property) would fall right into slavery territory, which would not go well for you.

      So, still want the AI to be granted that patent?'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:51am

    “If outdated IP laws around the world don’t respond quickly to the rise of the inventive machine, the lack of incentive for AI developers could stand in the way of a new era of spectacular human endeavor,” Abbott said.

    Isn't that sort of like saying "if word processor developers can't claim copyright on every document produced by word processors then there will be incentive for them to create word processors"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    him, 4 Jan 2020 @ 8:42pm

    doh

    Make "Making the world a better place." profitable, and the wealthy movers and shakers of earth will unite behind your banner and the earth will shine among the stars, making even the very gods jealous. But, until you do, all the Movers and Shakers are quite busy trying to become the first Trillionaire and to do that, it is absolutely necessary to exploit the earth and its populations in every possible manner imaginable. Sorry.

    The 1%

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2020 @ 5:41am

    Because there is a lot of difference between what the article is discussing and what commenters post.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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