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?

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


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  1. 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"


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