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Google Applies For Patents That Touch On Fundamental AI Concepts 101

mikejuk writes: Google may have been wowing the web with its trippy images from neural networks but meanwhile it has just revealed that it has applied for at least six patents on fundamental neural network and AI [concepts]. This isn't good for academic research or for the development of AI by companies. The patents are on very specific things invented by Geoffrey Hinton's team like using drop out during training, or modifying data to provide additional training cases, but also include very general ideas such as classification itself. If Google was granted a patent on classification it would cover just about every method used for pattern recognition! You might make the charitable assumption that Google has just patented the ideas so that it can protect them — i.e. to stop other more evil companies from patenting them and extracting fees from open source implementations of machine learning libraries. Google has just started an AI arms race, and you can expect others to follow.
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Google Applies For Patents That Touch On Fundamental AI Concepts

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  • What's stopping academic research on ideas covered by patents?

    • by donaggie03 ( 769758 ) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {reyemso_d}> on Sunday July 12, 2015 @06:31PM (#50094939)

      What's stopping academic research on ideas covered by patents?

      The source of the grants/funding?

      • The government is the entity that grants patents and the entity that hands out most of the funding, so they don't have to care at all if they don't want to. Some might even argue that since it's the people's tax money that funds the grants, any research that comes from them should also belong to the people.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          In general, for research funded by tax money conducted at an educational institution, the government gets a free, non-exclusive "government purposes use" license to any patents coming from the research. The educational institution retains the rights for other uses, and can license them as they see fit. This is the result of the Bayh-Dole act, which was designed to encourage research into the growing field of genetic engineering, etc.

          So, if you design a miracle widget, and the government thinks it would be u

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Another interesting thing that can be done is a private company can patent a technology and give that patent to a university (with contractual stipulations, of course) which puts the university in a position to further fund themselves while allowing other companies to capitalize on the investments made at the actual point of the universities.

      • by kanweg ( 771128 )

        Academic research does not infringe a patent, so no problem there.

        As to funding, the fund providers should realise that if the academic research results in patentable subject matter, still a major benefit can be achieved. The patent (applications) may be dependent on a Google patent, but Google isn't allowed to do what is in that dependent patent (application) too. So, this gives negotiation power and/or results in cooperation.


        • by Anonymous Coward

          Many people think that "academic research" or "non-profit use" doesn't infringe, but that's not true, any more than there is an exception to copyright for "non-profit use".

          There's no "fair use" exception for patents, either. There is a rule that you can practice an invention if it's necessary to reduce your own invention to practice, but there's a lot of tricky aspects to that (as in "consult your attorney" tricky). Madey v. Duke is a recent case that discusses this sort of thing.

          And, of course, if you do

    • What's stopping academic research on ideas covered by patents?

      Most AI research is moving out of academia and into industry. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. are hoovering up new PhDs, and even professors. Geoffrey Hinton [] and Yoshua Bengio are working for Google. Yann LeCun [] is working for Facebook. Etc. Etc. There is plenty of funding, and many great opportunities, as long as you don't mind who is paying.

      • So there is plenty of incentive to research AI concepts and building on work made public by a patent isn't going to stop that.

        That's one good thing that comes from patents. Public disclosure of the ideas.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That's one good thing that comes from patents. Public disclosure of the ideas.

          Or, as in this case, mostly pointless obfuscation of ideas previously disclosed by other, less greedy, people.

      • Most AI research snip blabla

        Nonsense, based on the usual "careful selection of evidence". Yes, A.I. has entered business in the past decade, whereas previously A.I. researchers where almost unemployable in their own field. And that's about it.

        As in most other fields (except, perhaps, pharmaceutics?), practically all relevant research in the field comes from academia. Go read some actual journals in the field and take note where the authors come form.

        • by Entrope ( 68843 )

          At least in CS, most research in journals is hardly relevant the real world, and most of it is largely redundant with what the authors could get published in other venues. Both of those pathologies are due mostly to incentives in academia to publish or perish. Corporate researchers have incentives to describe their research and move on, not milk their one decent idea (and funding stream) until it is dry. Looking at the organizational affiliations of published papers' authors does not say much about where

          • by Anonymous Coward

            You can moan about "publish or perish" as much as you like, the fact remains that the product of research is knowledge as it is manifested in publications and conference talks. Nothing else - proprietary products do not count as research output. If you don't understand this, then you are not a researcher. Nothing against engineering, just stating the truth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's the point of improving something if it's illegal for you to use the improvement in any meaningful way? You wouldn't even be able to get anyone else to use it.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        It's actually worse than that. It's illegal for you to create an item that is covered by a patent whether or not you ever use it or sell it. Of course if you never use it or sell it, you can probably hide it, as long as it's only never on a device that's connected to the internet.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Unless things have changed this is patently (pun intended) false information. You are able to make use of someone's patent. You can not sell it, you can not profit from it, you can not transfer it - even via gifting (AFAIK). I am not sure what would compel you to say such a thing. Now it is possible, still, to be illegally infringing on a patent even though it is private use but that does not mean that all private use cases are illegal. Consult a lawyer with expertise in the subject if you want more specifi

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            Read again the second and third paragraphs of your quoted text.

            They appear, to me, to be what I was asserting.

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              You said it was illegal. It is not. It may be but it depends on the circumstances. You can not use it for anything to make a profit or give it away but you can use it and make it. Both are things you claimed were not able to be done.

              • by HiThere ( 15173 )

                That is not my understanding, and it was not implied by your quoted text. What is implied is that you are unlikely to be prosecuted. Which I had already stated. (though I was a bit more paranoid, given the number of intrusions into computers).

                You have not shown anything saying that non-commercial use is legal (in the US), rather than just rarely prosecuted.

  • which i love on french fries. or a movie. or lots of things.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whats to stop Google from watching the competitions search queries and beating them to the punch? $TECHGIANT employee queries Google Search for PATENT $GOODIDEA, Google cleverly returns garbage and keeps him spinning in meme-hell until Google has their own PATENT PENDING on said $GOODIDEA?

    This is a serious question, googles power scares the shit out of me. Anything-armsrace involving google scares me even more.

    • Bing, the uspo, academic journals, and a lot of other places. that would stop them from having any impact by returning garbage results.

      As for snagging ideas. Nothing would stop that. In fact i have found the auto complete in some searches i do shows ideas i already searched for. This means that Google is already exposing ideas to others that can be taken advantage of by not just Google.

  • End of the World! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2015 @06:58PM (#50095011)

    Despair! all is lost!

    These are american patents, just don't deal with america if they won't play nice.

  • Most of them anyway. Rather find fields where a gold rush type of mentality can actually spur innovation, maybe the fields of fusion hot and cold or space transportations. Not in fields where garage or basement inventors can "make" new things. I doubt backyard rocket scientists are going to make much of difference in producing the next SSTO space vehicle (if ever that's a feasible concept).

  • This is one of the reasons I don't give a fuck trying to invent anything. The system is broken, and there's nothing anybody can do about it.
  • If we find out in the future that the brain itself uses these algorithms being patented, does this mean it counts as prior art, therefore invalidating them?
    From wikipedia:

    Prior art (state of the art or background art), in most systems of patent law, constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality.

    Since there is no restriction on form, then you could argue that the art has been made available to the public.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      I'm afraid you will just have to stop thinking.

      Fortunately, this seems to be the goal of most of Google's advertisers. Just sit back and enjoy the cat videos.

  • Name a case where Google has been the aggressor in a patent lawsuit.

    Google learned the hard way they need to play the game, which means patenting as much as they can so they don't get sued out the wazoo.

    On the plus side I can't recall a case where they've been the ones to bring suit against a party (first).

    • Google sued bt and apple at one time. Both settled and they've never really been aggressive, but still... Change of management, change of CEO, change of corporate policies, downturn in their economics. No one should have nukes or everyone should have nukes, that is really the only way to sustain. (In case it's not clear nukes are a metaphor here).
      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        You probably need to limit your metaphors a bit more strictly.

        Reasoning by analogy, "Everybody should have nukes" is a truly terrible idea. Any one suicidal lunatic could destroy everyone. Therefore there should be no patents.

        I feel this is an extreme position that is invalid. There are carefully delineated areas where patents actually serve a worthwhile purpose. They last too long, and they are too easy to abuse, but if there is a large up front cost inherent in making an invention, then patents are ju

    • Re:For 100 points... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @10:31PM (#50095799) Journal

      "Google has a gun pointed at my head. They haven't promised not to pull the trigger, but they haven't pull the trigger yet. So I've got that going for me." -- AI software developer

      Request for prior art on Google patent application. [] Don't let Google point a gun at our heads. Get their patent applications rejected with prior art.

      • "Google has a gun pointed at my head. They haven't promised not to pull the trigger, but they haven't pull the trigger yet. So I've got that going for me." -- AI software developer
        Don't let Google point a gun at our heads.

        The problem with that viewpoint is that under the current broken patent system, every unassigned AI patent is a gun sitting on a mount pointed at your head waiting for anyone willing to pay $10,000 (approx cost of a patent application) to take possession of it. It is much better

        • by rsborg ( 111459 )

          It is much better to have a company which promises not to pull the trigger take possession of it, rather than leave it unattended for some sue-happy patent troll to get their hands on it.

          Are those promises legally binding? If Google sold the patents, would new patent holders be legally bound to uphold those promises? I'm guessing the answers to both are no. I'm not so sure that tomorrow's Google will have the same intentions as today's Google. All it takes is a bit of revenue pressure, or hell, just a small change in management.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @09:54PM (#50095693)
    It took working with the self driving car to finally get to the realm of AI. AI in essence is one part complicated sensors, and one part video game AI. If you can know where stuff is in your environment, then the other part is just acting on that stuff with your current robot's body/abilities. AI is way simpler than anyone thought it was back in the days of Tron or simulating animal brains. All you need is the ability to know and map your environment then act on it. Everything in between like natural language kinda is coded along side it. I have a webpage [] which really simplifies stuff. Now don't get me wrong, some of the software that is needed to be coded is big and complex, but none of it is out of the realm of human understanding. If a corporation really wanted AI,they could have it in 7 years or so, but most corporations don't look that far out. I think the race to make a self driving car will naturally lead into AI. And what is funny is that you could have robot delivery service for lawn care, parties, law enforcement backup, etc, because they could use the self driving car to get to the locations.

    I'd go so far as to predict the self driving car will turn into AI because I posted it on another forum, but I post so much on forums, its hard to back track and point at references.
  • Stop the Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @10:29PM (#50095795)

    It is way past time to end all patents.
    Ideas are a dime a dozen.
    I have ten before breakfast and at least one is great.
    I invent things. I don't patent it, I implement.
    Time to end all patents.

    • It is way past time to end all patents. Ideas are a dime a dozen. I have ten before breakfast and at least one is great. I invent things. I don't patent it, I implement. Time to end all patents.

      I agree with your sentiment, but saying we should end all patents is like asking for people to stop fighting wars. Just not going to happen. The problem with taking it as a position is that it is easy to attack. For example, there is a robust argument for why some pharmaceuticals need to have protections to make them economic to develop. If you go into a debate wanting to stop patents, the opposition just wheels out some kid who got cured from cancer due to a drug that cost billions to develop and your get

      • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

        Excellent idea. People should stop fighting wars too.

        Don't confuse "America" with "the United States" with "the USA citizens". The laws are pushed by lobbyists for corporations who benefit. Surely you've figured that out by now. The odds of a quiet revolution are nearly zero.

        It is a Brave New World where 1984 came to pass and We all simply accepeted it without any revolution.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Google is gradually becoming the master of evil

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the application will be rejected, Google has done everyone a favour as nobody else will have a chance to patent this. If a significant part of your technology depends on this algorithm then it seems like a very reasonable behaviour. Obviously, that does not mean that they cannot turn at some point into another Oracle, but this news alone is not enough to prove this.

  • ... to reflect that the danger of a patent lawsuit might be alleviated if the AI you build as a result is smart enough to get you off the patent lawsuit.

    • You actually bring up a pretty interesting point. Most legal arguments are not amazingly intelligent, they simply involve finding logic loopholes using obscure case law. Even legal strategies are reasonably well defined, with most litigators just working to a book in terms of the various ways you can attack a case if you can't win on merit. Given that it is largely a process of reviewing as much case law as possible to find arguments and then weighing probabilities of success against possible defence strate

  • Lets sue them for using Fourier tranform without paying royalties. Starting amount is 1 million dollars per equation.
  • need to say more. []

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.