Great innovation only comes through invention. Think about the great inventions of all time, from the wheel to the harnessing of electricity to modern computing. This is the legacy of humans and a great tribute to them. Invention has long been the realm of mankind, until now. AI has now become an inventor, or is least is being credited with an invention in a patent request.

Inventors Need Patents

In modern times inventions and inventors are recognized by receiving a patent for their innovation. It gives them the ability to monetize their innovation and to gain the intellectual property rights to it, though of course it is by no means a guarantee that they will become rich off of it. Until now patent offices have insisted that innovations should be attributed to humans but that may now be outdated.

Dabus AI

A Missouri-based AI system called Dabus AI is included on two recently filed patent applications. Its designer Stephen Thaler and two British researchers at the University of Surrey teamed up to file patents with the relevant authorities in the US, the UK and the EU in what could be a groundbreaking case.

Dabus is not your typical machine learning system as it has not been trained to solve a particular problem but instead it is intended to devise and develop new ideas and concepts, or what is considered to be one of the core human elements involved in invention. So what did Dabus do?

What Did Dabus Invent?

The first patent is a food container that was designed using fractals to create bulges and pits in the side that allow for multiple containers to be fitted together more tightly. This will allow them to be transported more easily and more safely and it will make them easier for robotic arms to pick them up. 

The second patent is related to a lamp that is designed to flicker in a rhythm which mimics neural activity patterns that make it harder to ignore and can be used to attract or enhance attention or for sustaining interest in it. Something like this could replace a navigational beacon should it come to fruition.

Should Dabus AI Be Given Credit?

With AI becoming more prevalent in the workforce and being able to do more it is only a matter of time before AI would actually be credited with inventing something. AI is already doing mundane tasks like flipping burgers and farming to more creative work like making art and as a musician. The creative aspect is there.

The relevant patent offices have not been quick to accept these applications, which should come as no surprise. An AI system would not be recognized as a traditional author and thus would not have patent protection as Dabus is not considered to be sentient, therefore it is considered to be a tool and not an inventor. If AI becomes an inventor the entire intellectual property system could fail. Instead what may work better is that AI could be credited as the inventor and whoever owns the AI system should own the patent. A shift like this though could take well into next decade as legislation will need to be changed at a national and even international level so stay tuned.

Not An Easy Change To Patent Law

Of course there will be unforeseen consequences if AI can be given credit for inventions. There will be changes and ramifications that go well beyond copyright laws and intellectual property. Civil liability and data protection will need to be addressed as will other potential issues that are unforeseen at this time. It is a complex legal matter that would have been unthinkable a decade ago (and only broached in the realm of science fiction) and now is the time to start having this discussion. 

Will Dabus one day be linked to great American innovators like Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Morse, Thomas Edison or Bill Gates? Maybe one day it will or another AI system will. The likelihood that AI will play a part in future innovation is very high and it is a matter of time before AI is the principal force behind an invention. It would be best to have a plan or guide set now rather than forging a path ahead in the future when it happens so at least having the discussion is well worth it.

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