First AI inventor
first first
South Africa ()

The first artificial intelligence to be named in a successful patent application is DABUS, a system created by Stephen Thaler (USA). In 24 June 2021, DABUS was listed as the inventor on South African patent ZA2021/03242 "Food Container and Devices and Methods for Attracting Enhanced Attention". DABUS stores discrete concepts that it has learned in neural networks, combining these basic ideas into more complex ones (potential inventions), which it then assesses for their novelty and usefulness.

This patent is the result of a years-long campaign by Stephen Thaler and his attorney Ryan Abbott, managing a team of international patent attorneys bringing a series of pro bono legal test cases as part of the "Artificial Inventor Project" at the University of Surrey. They filed patent applications in 17 different countries including the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and China. Most patent offices rejected the applications initially, but appeals are ongoing. In August 2021 the Australian courts ruled that an AI could in fact be credited as an inventor, but the following month the UK Intellectual Property Office came to the opposite conclusion.

DABUS (the name stands for "Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience"), uses controlled chaos to combine whole neural nets, each containing simple notions, into complex notions (or inventions). The representation of ideas takes the form of chains of nets involving millions to trillions of artificial neurons. Similarly, the consequences sprouting from these notions are represented as chained nets whose formation may trigger the release of simulated reward or penalty neurotransmitters to either reinforce any worthwhile idea or erase a bad one. As these serpentine forms appear, they are filtered for their self-assessed novelty, utility or value and then absorbed within another net that serves as an interrogatable ‘witness’ of ideas cumulatively developed by the system.

The two inventions it came up with for this patent were a design for plastic food packaging that used fractal geometry to improve heat transfer into the package, and a pulsed-light "neural flame" designed to quickly attract people's attention in noisy and busy environments.