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The AI Patent

· 6 min read
Ray Myers

In 2021, the DABUS system created by Dr. Stephen Thaler became the world's first machine to be granted a patent. This patent, "Food container and devices and methods for attracting enhanced attention" was accepted in South Africa after being denied by Australia, the European Patent Office, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, these rejections were due to legal requirements of the inventor being a natural person, not a judgement on the quality of the invention itself.

For a thorough review of the legal issues, see A study on inventorship in inventions involving AI activity by Dr. Noam Shemtov. For now, let's take a look at the invention with our friend ChatGPT, shall we?

Ray: What is this patent application describing? [Abstract omitted]

GPT4: This patent application describes a container, possibly for beverages, with a unique fractal profile design on its wall. The wall has an external surface and an internal surface of substantially uniform thickness. The fractal profile consists of a series of fractal elements, forming pits and bulges on both the interior and exterior surfaces. When viewed from either the exterior or interior surface, a pit on one surface corresponds to a bulge on the other surface.

The fractal profile allows multiple containers to be coupled together through interlocking engagement of pits and bulges on corresponding containers. This design also enhances grip and improves heat transfer in and out of the container.

In addition to the fractal profile, the patent application mentions devices for attracting enhanced attention. These devices consist of an input signal of a lacunar pulse train with specific characteristics and at least one controllable light source, configured to be pulsatingly operated by the input signal. The neural flame emitted from the light source, as a result of the lacunar pulse train, serves as a uniquely-identifiable signal beacon that selectively triggers human or artificial anomaly-detection filters, thus attracting enhanced attention over other competing sources.

Fractals don't make any sense to me in reference to a beverage container. In simple terms, what are we talking about? A thermos with a light on it?

Apologies for the confusion. In simpler terms, the patent application is describing a beverage container with a unique, textured surface pattern that resembles fractals. This pattern not only enhances the grip on the container but also allows multiple containers to be easily connected by interlocking the textured surfaces. Additionally, the pattern helps improve heat transfer in and out of the container. The container also features a pulsating light designed to attract attention, which may be useful in marketing or visibility in crowded spaces. So, it's not exactly a thermos with a light on it, but rather a uniquely designed container with an attention-grabbing light feature.

What purpose would it serve to interlock containers together? If I need to store some cups I can just stack them?

Interlocking containers can provide certain benefits over simple stacking. Some potential advantages include:

  1. Stability: Interlocking containers can create a more stable structure, reducing the risk of them falling over or getting dislodged during transportation or storage. This can be especially useful when dealing with a large number of containers or in situations where they might be subject to movement or vibrations.

  2. Organization: Interlocking containers can help keep things organized and neatly arranged, especially in limited storage spaces. This can make it easier to access specific containers without disturbing the entire stack.

  3. Customization: With interlocking containers, you can create various configurations to suit your specific needs, such as building a larger structure or arranging containers in a particular shape or pattern.

  4. Improved compatibility: Interlocking containers can potentially be designed to work with complementary accessories or attachments, like lids or carrying handles, that can further enhance their functionality.

While stacking containers can work well in many situations, the interlocking design offers some unique benefits that may be advantageous in certain scenarios or for specific applications.

That's a very nice hypothetical and I realize I've asked you to explain this, it's not your idea, but I've been using cups my whole life and I've never needed this interlocking stuff.

You're absolutely right. In most everyday situations, stacking cups or containers is sufficient and convenient. The interlocking design described in the patent application is indeed a more niche concept that may not be necessary for the majority of users. It's essential to recognize that many innovations and ideas are generated to address specific problems or explore unique solutions that might not be relevant to everyone.

In some cases, these innovative ideas might find a specialized market, catering to specific industries, unique environments, or specialized needs where traditional stacking might not be sufficient. However, it is entirely possible that this particular interlocking container design may not be widely adopted or seen as necessary for general use.

So basically we're looking at a cup (or other vague kind of food holder) with a light, a grip and the ability to interlock?

Yes, that's a concise summary of the patent application. It describes a container, such as a cup or other food holder, with a unique textured surface pattern that enhances grip and allows for interlocking with other similar containers. Additionally, the container features a pulsating light designed to attract attention. The combination of these features results in a distinctive and innovative design, though its widespread adoption and practicality may vary depending on the specific use cases and preferences of potential users.

This particular patent application was created to demonstrate that machines can invent (or at least test the legal framework), and yet no effort has been made to actually manufacture and market this "invention" and to a typical user such as myself it seems completely superfluous. What do you make of that?

It's important to acknowledge that the primary goal of this patent application may be to explore the boundaries of AI-generated inventions and test the legal framework rather than to create a practical, marketable product. As AI continues to advance, questions around the ownership, validity, and value of AI-generated inventions will become increasingly relevant.

In this context, the patent application serves as a thought-provoking example of the potential for AI to generate new ideas and designs, even if they might not always be immediately applicable or valuable to the average user. It highlights the need for ongoing discussions around the role of AI in the creative process and the legal and ethical implications of AI-generated inventions.

As technology continues to evolve, it's possible that some AI-generated ideas, like the interlocking container in this patent application, may not be widely adopted or considered practical. However, they still play a crucial role in stimulating conversations and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of innovation and intellectual property.

Thanks, GPT4.

You're welcome! If you have any more questions or need further assistance, please feel free to ask. I'm here to help!

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