In what can only be considered a triumph for all types of robots, this week a federal court ruled that an artificially intelligent machine could, in fact, be the inventor-decision that followed a year of legal battles around the world.
The verdict came after years of searching for Ryan Abbott, a law professor at the University of Surrey, who began filing patent applications in 17 different countries earlier this year. Abbot – whose work focuses on the intersection between artificial intelligence and law – the first to launch two international patent applications under An artificial inventor project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for adjustable a food container and one for an emergency lighthouse) listed a creative neural system called “DABUS” as the inventor.
The an artificially intelligent inventor the DABUS listed here was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who is describes to as an “engine of creativity” capable of generating new ideas (and inventions) based on communication between trillion computational neurons with which it is equipped. Despite being an impressive machine, last year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that AI cannot be listed as an inventor in a patent application – explicitly stating that under the applicable patent laws in the country only “natural persons” are allowed be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the lawsuit.
Recently, the case was caught in a case of legal limbo – with a supervising judge suggesting that the case could instead be better resolved by Congress.
DABUS had problems that were recognized in other countries as well. A spokesman for the European Patent Office told the BBC Interview for 2019 that systems like DABUS are just a “tool used by a human inventor”, according to the applicable laws of the country. Australian courts initially refused recognize the inventors of AI, noting earlier this year just as in the US, patents can only be granted to people.
Or at least that was Australia’s stance until Friday, when justice is Jonathan Beach upside down decision in an Australian federal court. According to the new judgment of Per Beach, DABUS can be neither the applicant nor the recipient of the patent – but this is so can be listed as the inventor. In this case, those other two roles would be filled by Thaler, DABUS designer.
“In my opinion, the inventor as recognized by law can be a system or device with artificial intelligence,” Beach wrote. “I have to grapple with the basic idea, recognizing the evolving nature of patentable inventions and their creators. We are both created and we create. Why can’t we create our creations as well? “
It’s not clear what led the Australian courts to change the tune, but it is possible that South Africa has something to do with it. The day before Beach waived an official ruling by the country, the South African Commission for Companies and Intellectual Property became the first a patent office that will officially recognize DABUS as the inventor of the aforementioned food container.
It is worth emphasizing here that each country has a different set of standards as part of the patent rights process; some critics have noted that “it’s not shocking” for South Africa to give the idea of the inventor of artificial intelligence a pass and that “everyone should be prepared” for future patent licenses. So while the United States and the United Kingdom may have given Thalen a thumbs up for the idea, we’re still waiting to see how patents are filed in any of the other countries, including Japan, India, and Israel– he will shake. But at least we know that DABUS will finally be recognized as an inventor somewhere.