Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to develop products such as platforms, software, tools, and apps is currently the most dominating technology in the global marketplace. Businesses across all industries will be facing some critical business and marketing challenges regarding software copyright and fair use. The AI community will be facing additional issues such as technology ownership and patent infringement litigation.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up and address the legal issues raised from the long eight-year Google/Oracle battle as to whether software or parts of it are copyrightable and when fair use is applicable. How the court rules on these two issues could have a severe impact on how software is licensed/sold. If the Supreme Court rules unfavorably on either issue, users will be able to copy and use the materials without the need to make any payments to the owner, leaving the door open to competitors. Currently, under U.S. copyright law, fair use allows limited use of copyrighted materials without permission or payment to the copyright holder for purposes of news reporting, research, criticism—to name just a few.
In addition to the software and fair use issues, the AI community will also face issues such as ownership and patent infringement lawsuits. Many companies are using the same underlining AI technology so the question is, “Who owns what?” Back in the early 80s, Richard Stallman launched what he called the “free software movement” to market software as Open Source Software. “Free” in this context means that users are free to distribute, copy, use, edit, and improve the software so long as the edits and improvements were provided back to the community. The developer certainly can charge a fee for its products.
VIA Technologies, a global AI developer, has taken the initiative by designating its recently released VIA-AI APP, a smartphone driver assistance app which is available to users on GitHub, as an open-source product under an MIT License agreement. If the AI community decides to market their software products, platforms, and apps as an “enterprise open-source” product, an app contract could be embedded into each product along with two new provisions: an agreement that neither party will bring an IP lawsuit against a party and an agreement that the parties shall have complete IP immunity from PAE lawsuits, similar to what The LOT (License on Transfer) Network has done.
Just about all industries have been plagued by patent infringement lawsuits from Patent Assertion Entities (PAE’s), also referred to as patent trolls, and they certainly will attack the AI community. The LOT Network is a non-profit corporation with over 500 corporate members globally, many of whom are in the AI marketplace either as developers or users. They have joined together to fight the trolls. Each company member has signed a legal agreement that provides them with immunity from any PAE patent lawsuit.
It’s time for the AI community to start thinking about how to best license/sell their products in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s rulings. Being prepared is the best way to stay ahead of the competition.