Can a robot be an inventor? A new patent filing aims to find out

Can a robot be an inventor? A new patent filing aims to find out

Years after a photogenic macaque snapped a photo of itself on a wildlife photographer’s unguarded camera, and PETA filed a federal lawsuit to give the monkey the copyright for his viral selfies, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that animals cannot hold a copyright under current law. In fact, since the dispute started, the U.S. Copyright Office went ahead and specifically listed “a photograph taken by a monkey” as an example of an item that cannot be copyrighted.

So if monkeys and other animals can’t own copyrights, can Artificial Intelligence create protected intellectual property? A new patent filing in the U.K. aims to find out.

An international team led by AI activist Ryan Abbott, a law professor at the University of Surrey, has filed the first-ever patent applications for two inventions created autonomously by Artificial Intelligence without a human inventor.

The AI inventor, named DABUS by its creator, Stephen Thaler, was previously best known for creating surreal art, but it was designed to come up with new ideas and then assess those ideas for consequences, novelty, and salience. So far the series of neural networks that makes up DABUS has come up with two ideas that may be worth patenting. According to a press release, one patent application is for “a new type of beverage container based on fractal geometry,” which sounds pretty sweet, while the other is for a device that can help attract attention that could be useful in search and rescue operations.

While patent offices in the United Kingdom and the EU have accepted that the patent applications meet the bar of “new, inventive and industrially applicable,” the question of whether an AI can be legally granted a patent has not been c

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