One of the areas where technology law is likely to see development in South Africa is the regulation of data privacy. The Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) protects personal information and regulates the processing of personal data. However, with the rise of big data and the increasing use of technology in various industries, the legal framework surrounding data privacy will likely evolve in the coming years. This may include changes to PoPIA itself, as well as new legislation and case law that addresses emerging issues in data protection. Another area where tech law will likely see development is regulating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
"While technology analysis is still new, it can provide some of the needed foundations for technology as a field of its own and answer such questions as'Can AI invent?.'" Not long ago, Dr. Stephen Thaler, a member of the scientific community, began claiming that his artificial intelligence (AI) machine, DABUS, was a bona fide inventor. The outcome so far has been that the claim has been rejected in most jurisdictions. A notable exception is South Africa, which accepted Thaler's patent application under "Formalities Examination" with DABUS as named inventor. The acceptance of the patent in South Africa and the evolution of the legal field opens the possibility of further assertions and challenges with respect to AI inventorship.
My co-authors were Christine Strutt of Von Seidels in Cape Town, South Africa and Francine Ward of the Law Office of Francine D. Ward, Palm Desert, California. The article published by INTA in its February 9, 2022, Bulletin, explains how artificial intelligence (AI) is replacing trademark's function in brand selection. Here is a summary of the article. Traditionally, trademarks were shortcuts, identifying and distinguished goods in the marketplace in response to a buyer's needs and self-selected criteria. Trademarks have also protected against human frailty by alleviating confusion, imitation, disparagement and misrepresentation. AI is altering a consumer's browsing, selection and purchasing process.
Vumacam, an international technology company, is now building out more applications on Proof 360 for the South African market, including a system to detect license plate cloning – when two cars show up in different locations with identical plate numbers. It's also opening up the platform for third-party developers to add their own applications and distribute them to its users. Later this year, Ricky Croock Chief Executive Officer at Vumacam Johannesburg Metropolitan Area118, says that the company will switch to a new model, where customers will pay a flat fee to get access to the full network of cameras instead of just a selection. Agencies will still be able to filter the alerts to their jurisdiction, but they will also be able to view any feed in the country. The new approach will allow Vumacam to place poles and cameras irrespective of whether there are paying customers nearby.
Five years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. Neither the city's infrastructure nor existing video analytics could support sending and processing footage at the necessary scale. But then fiber coverage expanded, AI capabilities advanced, and companies abroad, seeing an opportunity, began dumping the latest surveillance technologies into the country. The local security industry, forged under the pressures of a high-crime environment, embraced the menu of options. The effect has been the rapid creation of a centralized, coordinated, entirely privatized mass surveillance operation.
By Paresh Dave Timnit Gebru, the computer scientist whose disputed exit from Google's artificial intelligence research team prompted debate across the tech industry about diversity and censorship, said on Thursday she has launched a small lab to continue her work freely. The Distributed AI Research Institute has raised $3.7 million from foundations and aims to critically study services from big tech companies as well as propose AI-based solutions to issues such as food insecurity and climate change, Gebru said. It joins several non-governmental projects such as the Algorithmic Justice League that are advancing ethical use of AI. Critics worry that without proper safeguards systems including for facial recognition and credit scoring could lead to mass surveillance and racial discrimination. Gebru has hired a fellow based in South Africa and expects to add other researchers next year.
As exciting as all this might seem, this decision seems to be more of an aberration than the rule. Before it was finally granted a patent in South Africa, the DABUS application had been rejected by patent offices in the US, Europe and the UK. The European Patent Office (EPO), justifying its decision to reject the patent application, pointed out that the law designates a natural person as the inventor of a work in order to preserve her moral right over the invention as well as to secure for her the economic rights made available by the patent. In order to be entitled to these benefits, an inventor needs to have actually "performed the creative act of invention". While artificial intelligence algorithms today are capable of perform complex computational functions that are often way beyond the capability of humans, the EPO pointed out that in all these instances, the programs are doing little more than just following the broad instructions of the humans who designed them.
Join our XPotential Community, future proof yourself with courses from XPotential University, connect, watch a keynote, or browse my blog. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been getting creative for some time now and inventing new things, including everything from new kinds of batteries, computer chips, furniture, and rocket engines, all the way through to new kinds of vehicles and sports apparel, for companies as diverse as Airbus, Amazon, GM, NASA, and Under Armour. But despite this quantum leap recently the US Patent Office declined to credit AI for its inventions. Now that's changed, and in what seems to be a world first Intellectual property (IP) officials in South Africa have made history in a landmark decision to award a patent that names an AI as the inventor. The patent – which was filed by an international team of lawyers and researchers led by the University of Surrey's, Professor of Law and Health Sciences, Ryan Abbott – is for a food container based on fractal geometry.
The emergence of artificial intelligence-related technology as a means of innovation has led to uncertainties for companies across industries, primarily because patent law has historically held that intellectual property rights be assigned only to humans. Now, in a landmark decision, an Australian court has set a groundbreaking precedent, deciding AI systems can be legally recognised as an inventor in patent applications, challenging a fundamental assumption in the law: that only human beings can be inventors. The AI machine called DABUS is an "artificial neural system" and its designs have set off a string of debates and court battles across the globe. Australia's Federal Court has now made the new law that "the inventor can be non-human" in the same month that South Africa became the first country to defy the status quo and award a patent recognising DABUS as an inventor. AI inventor and creator of DABUS, Stephen Thaler has been running a sutained global campaign to have DABUS recognised as an inventor for more than two years.
Lady Gaga sings'I'm on the edge of glory and I'm hanging on a moment of truth'. Until now, the longstanding crusade to allow inventions generated by the AI machine DABUS to be patentable under existing national patent laws across different jurisdictions had not had much success. Lawyers with the "Artificial Inventor Project" had filed patent applications around the world for DABUS' 'inventions' but received a steady stream of rejections from national IP offices and courts (for instance see our Lens posts on refusals by the UKIPO, UK High Court, EPO and USPTO). Surprisingly, DABUS has had better results in recent weeks in respect of its South African and Australian applications. Is this the edge of glory?