The US Supreme Court has denied a petition to review a case that challenged the rejection of patents for inventions created by an artificial intelligence (AI) system. With this decision, the court is effectively upholding current US patent laws, which state patents are only granted if the inventor is human.
The case involved two patent applications filed by Stephen Thaler, the founder of Imagination Engines, a company that develops AI systems. The applications named an AI system called DABUS as the sole inventor of a fractal-based food container and a flashing light device. Thaler claimed that DABUS had autonomously generated the inventions without any human input or guidance.
However, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the applications on the grounds that DABUS did not qualify as an inventor under the US patent law, which defines an inventor as an “individual”. Thaler appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the USPTO's rejection in July 2021.
Thaler then petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that the Federal Circuit had erred in interpreting the patent law and that excluding AI inventors would stifle innovation and harm the public interest.
Supreme Court Chooses to Uphold Current Patent Laws
The Supreme Court has now denied Thaler's petition without comment, leaving the Federal Circuit's ruling as the final word on the matter. The denial means that the US patent law remains unchanged and that only human beings can be recognized as inventors for patent purposes.
The case has sparked a debate on whether and how AI-generated inventions should be protected by intellectual property (IP) rights. Some experts argue that allowing patents for AI inventors would incentivize research and development using AI systems and reward their creators. Others contend that granting patents to AI inventors would undermine the human-centric nature of IP law and create legal and ethical challenges.
Similar AI patents have already been denied in Canada, Australia, the UK, China, Japan, and European nations.
Growing AI Concern: Are They Valid or Stifling Innovation?
There have been growing concerns about the impact of AI technology such as ChatGPT and Microsoft's Bing Chat on society and democracy.
The Italian Data Protection Authority has ordered OpenAI to stop providing the chatbot in the country. Germany is also reportedly considering banning ChatGPT and it is likely other countries will follow suit. In the US, the Treasury Department last week called for AI models to require certification before they can launch in the country.
Japan's prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said that AI will be a topic on the agenda at the G7 summit in Hiroshima next month. The focus will be on how to regulate the technology. Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, said recently that regulations are necessary around AI and that the technology can be dangerous. Picahi's remarks came even as his company presses ahead with AI development.
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