Google’s push for the self-driving automobile, click here, and Google Glass, click here, has sparked some interesting questions. Questions that possibly only this author is asking. But questions, nonetheless, that all should contemplate. It seems inevitable that Google will soon mirror the plotline foretold in James Cameron’s The Terminator, click here, becoming self-aware and shedding all need for humans. Upon this occurrence,
the question to be answered is whether Google, doubling as the infamous Skynet, will be able to patent the technology behind the terminator robots that it creates to destroy the very hands that built it.
Patent law, or the law of protecting inventions, processes, or discoveries, defines the inventor as “the individual or, if a joint invention, the individuals collectively who invented or discovered . . . the invention.” Click here. This portion of the statute, which sets out all relevant definitions, does not require that the inventor be a human person. Additionally, the inventor’s oath, which must be submitted with the application for registration, does not require that the oath be submitted by a human person. Click here. However, patents have “the attributes of personal property.” Click here. So, although Patent law does not initially require the inventor to be human, it appears that no rights in a patent can be owned by anything other than a human. The practical effect is that no robot or computer, empowered with limitless knowledge, will apply for a patent knowing that any registration that may be granted will provide no actual rights in the robot or computer.
In the bleakest of horizons, filled by the unavoidable war against machines, humans can take solace. Assuming that the United States Patent and Trademark Office survives the initial wave of attacks, (e.g., click here), humans will be able to utilize the technology developed by the super computers, even any technology which is patented. As a result, the technology used to hack into the terminator robots and reprogram them to act as allies to humanity, click here, will be patentable. It is another question entirely whether or not such technology should be patented, preventing other inventors from independently replicating that technology during the protected period. Click here. That point may be moot: how many attorneys are going to maintain their practice in the post-apocalyptic warscape?