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.