Robots Cannot Always Be Cloned
Many people have the notion that robots can be freely cloned. This is not true due to patent
restrictions. To understand how this came about, it is best to understand the precident law
as it pertained to the original IBM PC.
What happened is that in the early 1980s, IBM introduced the IBM PC. It had a Basic
Input/Output System referred to as the IBM PC BIOS. Other suppliers wanted to clone this
Personal Computer, but ran into the problem that the code in the on-board Read Only
Memory (ROM) was copyrighted. To circumvent this problem, Phoenix Corp used a "clean
room" approach where engineers who had never seen the IBM code, were able to write
their own code to accomplish the same job. This broke the monopoly that IBM would have
otherwise had were they to have patented the procedures represented by the code.
This causes me to be curious about how the situation would develop if a robot was patented
and if it were educated using a fixed set of procedures. In that situation, could the robot be
duplicated by someone else who reversed engineered the patented robot?
In the case where someone owned a patent on a procedure such as filing records as mentioned
earlier, how would this be treated?
in electonic file drawers. Certainly a human could file
papers in physical folders in actual filing cabinet drawers. This procedure has been carried
out for many decades and certainly cannot be patented at this point in time.
But what if a company has a patent on computers doing the sorting procedure? At some
future time there could be a robot which learns on its own how to sort files in a manner which
might be seen as similar to the method which is patented. Since the robot is not carrying out
procedures defined by an algorithm which is then programmed into a computer, is the robot
in violation of the patent? An argument against it being a violation of the patent is that if a
human carried out the same procedure physically with actual files, it would not be a violation
of the patent. Does it not then follow that the robot would not violate the patent if it carries
out the procedure physically?
If you agree that there is no patent violation so far, then consider the following scenario.
A human being whose brain is similar to the late Kim Peek would be able to memorize the
files and store them in his mind in a sorted fashion. Potentially he could then laboriously
type out the files in sequence into a computer where they would be stored. Doesn't sound
like a violation of anyone's patent so far, does it? Now substitue the robot for human autistic.
Then substitute outputting the files electronically via Wi-Fi to the computer for "type out the
files in sequence into the computer".
AskTheBot's Site for Discussion of Robotic Issues