Search for...

The Legal Landscape of AI: EU’s AI Act and the Groundbreaking Thaler Case

AI regulation pictured by a robotic and a human hand reaching for each other.
Image credit: Cash Macanaya on Unsplash

George Chisuse, LL.M graduate from King's College London, is the founder and managing partner at VC Law. His expertise spans International Finance, Litigation, Contract, and Corporate Law. With a focus on cryptocurrency and blockchain, he's led projects involving compliance analysis for payment setups and innovative banking products. He provides insights into evolving legal trends in cryptocurrencies, AI, and legal tech.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) permeates every corner of modern life, from recommending what to watch next on streaming platforms to aiding critical medical diagnoses. Given AI’s exponential growth and its wide-ranging influence, there is a growing need for strong AI regulation to ensure the technology’s safe, ethical, and beneficial use. Leading the way in such regulatory endeavors is the European Union (EU), proposing the world’s first comprehensive AI legislation.

Pioneering AI Regulation: The European Union’s Ambitious AI Act

The EU’s landmark AI Act, unveiled in April 2021, takes a unique approach to AI regulation by considering the risk associated with the use of various AI systems. The Act proposes to categorize AI systems based on the potential risks they pose to individuals and society. Based on these classifications, corresponding regulatory measures will be established.

For instance, an AI system used in medical diagnosis or predictive policing would be considered ‘high-risk’ due to the potential for significant individual and societal consequences if the system fails or behaves unexpectedly. Such systems will be subjected to stringent regulatory scrutiny to ensure their safety and transparency.

Conversely, ‘limited risk’ AI systems, like chatbots or AI-generated content, which carry a lower potential for harm, will be subjected to lighter regulatory controls, such as mandatory transparency measures. Finally, ‘unacceptable risk’ AI systems — those posing threats to safety and fundamental rights — would face prohibition.

Through this differentiated approach, the EU is striking a delicate balance: encouraging AI’s beneficial use and innovation while protecting individual and societal values. This nuanced approach reaffirms the EU’s commitment to placing human rights at the center of AI technology’s development and use.

Now let’s delve deeper into the emerging moral dilemmas revolving around AI and why a strong legal framework like the EU’s AI Act is necessary to address them.

Navigating the ethical and legal maze of AI: A look at the Thaler v Commissioner of Patents case

As AI technology advances, unique moral and legal conundrums are beginning to surface, which underscore the urgent need for such comprehensive regulation. A case in point is the groundbreaking lawsuit, Thaler v Commissioner of Patents, tried by the Australian Federal Court.

Read more:  Coding the future of 3D creation: the story of GenZ-founded Kaedim

Stephen Thaler, the applicant in this case, is an AI researcher and the creator of an artificial intelligence system known as DABUS. Thaler had attempted to patent an invention generated autonomously by DABUS, citing the AI system as the inventor. His application, however, was rejected by the Commissioner of Patents on the grounds that the inventor named must be a human, leading to Thaler challenging the decision in court. Thaler, being the owner of DABUS’s source code and operator of the computer on which DABUS runs, challenged the notion that only a human can be an inventor.

This case posed a unique legal challenge: Can an AI system legally be recognized as an inventor? This was a question that went beyond traditional definitions and legal conceptions of ‘invention’ and ‘inventorship’, straddling the intersection of law, ethics, and advanced technology.

With that said, let’s examine the decision made by the Australian Federal Court in the Thaler v Commissioner of Patents case and what it implies for future AI regulation. Could this be a glimpse into a future where AI systems are legally recognized as inventors?

Building the future of AI: EU’s proposed AI act amidst complex challenges

And here we reach the tipping point — the revolutionary verdict of Thaler v Commissioner of Patents, an Australian Federal Court case that echoes around the world. In its decision the Australian Federal Court has challenged the status quo by ruling that an AI system can, indeed, be considered an inventor. The judge’s standing was founded on an intricate interpretation of the term “inventor” — the term was deemed to be an “agent noun” and an agent, as defined, could be either a person or a thing that invents. This decision paves the way for AI systems, like DABUS, to be recognized as inventors for patent purposes.

This precedent-setting case highlights the global struggle to reconcile AI advancements with existing legal and ethical frameworks. It underscores the timely nature of the EU’s pioneering AI regulatory initiative, further emphasizing the urgent global need for comprehensive AI legislation.

Read more:  How the Western Balkans Investment Readiness Program can help regional startups attract investors

Although the Act doesn’t directly tackle the questions raised by the Australian case, it provides a crucial foundation for the future development of AI legislation, setting the stage for other jurisdictions to follow suit.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of AI, the proactive stance of the EU is highly commendable. Through the proposed AI Act, the EU is not merely responding to current technological trends; it’s actively shaping the future of AI. However, the journey to effective AI regulation is far from over. As AI continues to permeate different aspects of our lives, our legal systems need to adapt and evolve, ready to address the novel and complex challenges posed by AI.

The article is co-authored by Yoana Blyahova and Stephany Valcheva.

Help us grow the emerging innovation hubs in Central and Eastern Europe

Every single contribution of yours helps us guarantee our independence and sustainable future. With your financial support, we can keep on providing constructive reporting on the developments in the region, give even more global visibility to our ecosystem, and educate the next generation of innovation journalists and content creators.

Find out more about how your donation could help us shape the story of the CEE entrepreneurial ecosystem!

One-time donation

You can also support The Recursive’s mission with a pick-any-amount, one-time donation. 👍