Can we consider machines to be inventors? An Australian judge has ruled that it is legal to recognize AI as an inventor. This decision has caused mixed reactions among those in the industry, from fellow inventors to patent lawyers.
There are many aspects in this case that make it difficult to reach a unanimous decision. In fact, this is actually the first time that Stephen Thaler’s submission was not rejected. This is coming after several attempts in different jurisdictions all over the world.
Dr. Stephen Thaler developed the neural network DABUS, which stands for Device for the Autonomous Boot-Strapping of Unified Sentience. With the help of his legal representative Ryan Abbott, he has filed patent applications for DABUS in several countries, such as the US, the UK, Germany, Brazil, China, and India.
According to Dr. Thaler and Abbott, DABUS has invented a food container and a beacon that emits light. In lieu of this, they are actively appealing for AI to be officially recognized as the inventing agent.
Unfortunately, they have not had much luck in most countries, as they rejected their applications for a machine-generated patent. South Africa did accept the submission, however, their decision remains unclear as there was no formal examination process.
Australia was the first and so far the only country to fully assess and accept Dr. Thaler’s case. Justice Beach has argued that there is nothing in Australian law indicating that an applicant for a patent has to be a human being. When it comes to US courts, this is not the case as they actually do specify that inventors must be human, which explains why Dr. Thaler’s submission was dismissed.
Ultimately, Australia’s federal court decided in Dr. Thaler’s favor, ruling that AI can be recognized as an inventor in a patent application. With this, the judge sent Thaler’s applications back to the Commissioner of Patents, complete with instructions to reconsider.
Dr. Thaler and Abbott maintain that they are not claiming that AI inventors should have ownership over their products. Dr. Thaler would still be the owner and controller of DABUS; he was just able to obtain the inventions through DABUS.
Australian intellectual property lawyer Mark Summerfield has given his two cents on this in his blog, “Patentology.” He expressed strong criticism against Justice Beach’s decision on the grounds that it could lead to the production of junk patents. He sees it as a form of judicial activism that does not serve Australia’s best interests in any way.
He also brought up the possibility of a whole flood of patents being awarded to AI inventors. To Summerfield, the policy denying patents on machine-made inventions is perfectly sound and reasonable and does a surmountable amount in advancing human ingenuity. Clearly, there are a lot of divided reactions about the decision made by the Australian court. Justice Beach’s bold decision sparked quite an uproar in the community and it’s difficult to predict what a wave of machine-generated inventions could entail. If you’re as intrigued by this matter as we are, let us know your point of view about it!