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I had fun presenting to the Perth Machine Learning Group on Tuesday evening (23 February 2021) on the topic of “Does anybody own intellectual property rights in a robot’s creations?

Of course by this, I mean any artificial intelligence device or machine learning system that generates output or content that would, if created by a human, be capable of being protected as a form of intellectual property.

With the advance of automation, this is an emerging issue in intellectual property law. Although people might think that intellectual property in the output is either owned by the programmer or the person who owns or operates the device, my conclusion for the moment is that it’s not so simple. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that there are no intellectual property rights in the output of robots, unless a human creator has had at least some active involvement in the creation.

We discussed the well-known monkey selfie case and how it relates to claims for ownership of copyright in the output of robots, and an artificial intelligence system called DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience) which was recently named as the inventor in a patent application.

Thank you to Perth Machine Learning Group for hosting me, and thank you to the audience for their participation and great questions on this topic.

My new robot – still unnamed – made its public debut and joined me for the presentation. (My kids helped me to make it – it was a good project with them when they learned I would be talking about robots!)


  1. Reply

    Update (20 August 2021) – In this presentation (from 42:20), I talked about a decision by IP Australia to refuse a patent application on the basis that an artificial intelligence system could not be recognised as an inventor. Well, that’s all outdated, as that decision was successfully appealed to the Federal Court of Australia, and in a decision on 30 July 2021 (Thaler v Commissioner of Patents [2021] FCA 879), the court decided that an artificial intelligence system can be an inventor for the purposes of the Patents Act in Australia!
    That’s going to be the subject of my next presentation to the Perth Machine Learning Group on 2 September 2021:

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