Are AI-generated inventions capable of intellectual property protection?

The world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a notion which is certainly beneficial to us in the modern digital era. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that AI is overtaking the legislation which is put in place to govern it. Consequently, this makes it difficult to establish which laws and areas of intellectual property (IP) are applicable to AI. An applicable example is ‘DABUS’, created by ‘artificial pioneer’ Stephen Thaler. The AI was labelled by the creator as the “true artificial inventor”, as it was able to utilise artificial neural networks to generate original ideas and also to create art.

The creator of the machine requested that the work produced by DABUS be patented within the USA, the UK and Europe. The court denied Thaler’s application by insisting that only natural persons were capable of being viewed as inventors under patent law. Therefore, DABUS was refused the ability to hold sole or joint rights toward the work which it had produced. Although Thaler lost the battle, this action certainly signified the rapid growth of the world of AI. This case led to over 80 questions, during a discussion at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), as to how the law should deal with the rapid growth of such intelligent machinery.

Further, there is no sufficient protection under the law of copyright either. Here, AI could not be listed as an author or owner of a work and is instead viewed as a tool which is utilised by humans to aid their authorship. This is regardless of the idea that the piece of complex algorithm could have solely produced the work, without human aid. AI is not viewed as a body of law within its own right, however, with pressure from inventors and the world of AI itself, it is possible that the future relationship between AI and IP protection could be sure to change, as it becomes apparent adaptation is needed. In order to acquire copyright protection, one must demonstrate originality, namely skill, labour and effort, and also fixation. This test of originality would be difficult to apply to AI, as it is unlikely they undergo a sufficient amount of effort in the making of their work. Therefore, a suitable option in the future could witness an autonomous piece of legislation to aid the correct application within law. 

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