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AI inventors may find it hard to patent tech under US law • The Register

Comment Future AI could be a challenge for US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officials, who need to wrap their heads around complex technology that’s perhaps not quite compatible with today’s laws.

Under the Department of Commerce, the USPTO’s core mission is to protect intellectual property, or IP. Creators file patent applications in hope of keeping competitors from copying their inventions without permission, and patents are supposed to allow businesses to thrive with their own novel designs while not stifling wider innovation.

Fast evolving technologies, such as deep learning, are pushing the limits of today’s IP policies and rules. Clerks are trying to apply traditional patent approval rules to non-trivial machine-learning inventions, and bad decisions could result in a stranglehold on competition among public and private AI creators. We all know how overly broad patents on software and other technology can make it past USPTO, causing headaches for years to come.

“AI is already impacting most industries and many aspects of our society,” Kathi Vidal, the agency’s director and a former engineer, said during the inaugural meeting of the AI and Emerging Technologies (ET) Partnership Series held virtually last month.

“AI and emerging technologies have the potential to dramatically improve our day-to-day lives. They will provide countless and unpredictable benefits to our social well-being not just here in the United States, but around the world. But the bottom line is, we need to get this right.

“We need to make sure we’re setting laws, policies and practices that benefit the US and the world.”

Publishing patents disseminates valuable knowledge, giving engineers and scientists ideas on how to advance technologies or invent new ones. Inventors have to meet a list of criteria in order for their applications to be considered. Not only do they have to demonstrate their invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful, they have to describe their work in a way that someone skilled in the same field can understand and reproduce it.

And here’s the rub.

Neural networks aren’t easily explainable. The number-crunching process that seemingly magically transforms input data into an output is often opaque and not interpretable. Experts often don’t know why a model behaves the way it does, making it difficult for patent examiners to assess the nitty-gritty details of an application.

Furthermore, reproducibility is notoriously difficult in machine learning. Developers need access to a model’s training data, parameters, and/or weights to recreate it. Providing this information in a patent application may satisfy examiners, but it may not be in the interests of the inventors or the wider public.

Medical data taken from real patients to train an algorithm that can detect tumors, for example, is sensitive and opens up all sorts of risks if it is handed over for government agency workers to process, publish, and store. Full disclosure of the system may also reveal proprietary information. It may be easier in some cases to not patent the technology at all.

The USPTO previously hit a stumbling block when it came to applying patent law to AI inventions. Mary Critharis, USPTO’s chief policy officer and director for international affairs, noted the acceptance rate for AI patents dropped in comparison to non-AI inventions in 2014 following the US Supreme’s Court decision [PDF] in the Alice Corp vs CLS Bank International case. Justices ruled CLS could not have infringed Alice’s financial computer software patent, because it was too abstract.

Like laws of nature and natural phenomena, abstract ideas can’t ordinarily be patented. The Supreme Court ruling may therefore have had a chilling effect on AI patent applications and acceptance, as they too may have been assumed to be too abstract, at least until further guidance was issued to patent examiners on how to deal with abstract designs.

“[The data] provides some suggestive evidence that the Alice decision impacted AI technologies,” said Critharis.

“The allowance rate stayed below the non-AI application rate until about 2019. The reason for this was that in 2019, the USPTO had issued revised subject matter eligibility guidance,” she continued, referring to the advice discussed here [PDF].

“I think this is the reason why we’re seeing an increase in allowance rates, but there was definitely an impact of the Alice decision on AI related applications.”

As machine learning evolves, and more patents are applied for and picked apart in court, we could see another dip in allowance rates.

Last year, a group of US senators said there is “a lack of consistency and clarity in patent eligibility laws,” and asked the USPTO to clarify what inventions are patentable and why. “The lack of clarity has not only discouraged investment in critical emerging technologies, but also led the courts to foreclose protection entirely for certain important inventions in the diagnostics, biopharmaceutical, and life sciences industries,” they wrote in a letter. 

Clear guidance from the USPTO is helpful in encouraging inventors to file patents more successfully. But advice only goes so far. US courts, ultimately, have the final say in these matters.

And, separately, it’s not clear if and how AI-generated technologies can be patented. Who owns the IP rights of art, music, or writing created using generative models? These creations riff off existing content and can mimic certain styles. Do they violate copyright?

Can these models be listed as inventors if they create content? Current US laws, at least, only recognize IP produced by “natural persons” much to the chagrin of one man. Stephen Thaler sued Andrei Iancu, the former director of the patent office, when his application listing a neural network system named DABUS as an inventor was rejected.

There hasn’t been a significant commercial application of these technologies in a way that will precipitate what will be the next patent war in the sense that there was the sewing machine patent war

It could get interesting if, as some legal experts believe, people start filing patents for inventions devised and optimized by automated machine-learning algorithms. These inventions may not be entirely novel but the way in which they were produced was; will these be accepted, or is it an obvious rejection?

The USPTO cannot definitively answer all these questions; some of these issues will have to be tried and tested in court.

“There haven’t been a lot of court cases on AI yet,” said Adam Mossoff, Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, during a panel discussion.

“There hasn’t been a significant commercial application of these technologies in a way that will precipitate what will be the next patent war in the sense that there was the sewing machine patent war, and there was the patent war over fiber optics, and there was the patent war over disposable diapers and everything else. And when that happens, I think we’re going to see a real concern here.”

The UPTSO has asked the public to comment on current policies that describe what inventions can or cannot be patented.

Some people thought the agency was effective at issuing patents and helping protect inventors against patent trolls, while others disagreed and said the agency’s framework stifles innovation for small businesses and startups.

A recent report [PDF] from the agency concluded that everyone did agree on one thing: “The standard for determining whether an invention is patenting should be clear, predictable, and consistently applied.” ®

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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