Experts to debate if artificial intelligence can be an inventor at Osgoode event

Headshots of Professor Carys Craig, Professor Ryan Abbott, and Toronto IP lawyers and Osgoode alumni Reshika Dhir, and Paul Blizzard
Professor Carys Craig (left), Professor Ryan Abbott and Toronto IP lawyers Reshika Dhir and Paul Blizzard.

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It’s the hottest topic in intellectual property (IP) law today: Can artificial intelligence be an inventor?

Four leading IP law experts will debate that question Nov. 22 when they meet at Osgoode to dissect the most contentious cases on the issue – all of them related to the so-called DABUS AI-creativity device.

The event will include, via Zoom, Professor Ryan Abbott from the University of Surrey School of Law in the United Kingdom, who has been leading the legal fight to have AI devices such as DABUS recognized as inventors.

Joining him in person on the panel will be Osgoode Associate Dean (Research and Institutional Relations) and IP law Professor Carys Craig, who opposes recognition of AI inventors, Reshika Dhir, a partner with Toronto-based IP law firm Bereskin & Parr LLP, and Paul Blizzard, an associate with Bereskin & Parr. The event was organized by Osgoode graduate student Divyangana Dhankar in collaboration with IP Osgoode.

“As Professor Abbott knows, I disagree with his position – but I always enjoy our debates!” said Craig.

“I am looking forward discussing these issues with Professor Abbott and our co-panelists, Reshika Dhir and Paul Blizzard, both of whom are Osgoode alums and now leading IP and technology lawyers in Toronto,” she added.

Dhankar noted that patent laws are generally intended to not only protect inventors, but to encourage inventive activity.

“Prof. Ryan advocates for legal neutrality, that is, the law should not treat AI and humans differently,” she explained. “On the other hand, Prof. Craig takes a cautious approach and has argued that Prof. Ryan’s conception of legal neutrality is not ‘a satisfactory default principle.’”

Developed by Stephen Thaler, an American inventor and AI researcher, DABUS is designated as the inventor in patent applications in several countries for two products: a food container designed to allow for quick reheating and a flashing beacon for roadside emergencies.

In litigation involving those applications, courts and patent authorities in the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have ruled that an inventor must be a human being. But in 2021, the South African Companies and Intellectual Property Commission accepted Thaler’s patent application, making it the first patent issued for an AI device.

The DABUS acronym stands for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience.