NEWSLETTER: BELOW THE FOLD.


While the pandemic negatively impacted a number of people and industries, there were some areas that thrived in spite of it all. Researchers found that even as supply chains tangled, sustainability efforts did not suffer within large companies. In fact, roughly 82% of executives shared that their supply chain sustainability goals were either met or exceeded expectations. These same companies also improved employee safety and brought more attention to equity and inclusion, with some claiming a 10% increase in these priorities overall.
 
ALL THE BUZZ
Mysterious bee thieves are stealing hives around the world
Fri Aug 13

Bees are pretty easy to steal. Beekeeper suits are readily available, making thieves hard to distinguish from legitimate beekeepers on the farm. As a result, they’ve gotten away with large thefts turning into severe losses for beekeepers.

  • In 2016, thieves took an estimated $200,000 worth of hives from the largest family-run bee site in Canada. One of the suspects was caught, sentenced to nine months probation, and fined $40,000.
  • Three years later, a keeper woke up to over $70,000 in losses in California’s Central Valley, forcing him to start selling personal possessions (such as his wife’s car) to make ends meet.
  • More recently in New York, thousands of speciality bees were taken from a Long Island breeder. These bees were bred specifically to adapt to the area’s climate, costing $500 per hive.

Why are people stealing bees in the first place? Over 40% of the world’s insects are under threat of extinction with high rates of colony collapse for years. As these wild bee populations decline, their pollination services have become a hot commodity. For example in California, this pollination is desperately needed for growing almonds in a state that produces 80% of the world’s supply. Some believe these almond farmers are behind the thievery while others think its former beekeepers making a last ditch effort to save their own businesses. The situation has gotten so bad that one sheriff is solely focused on investigating bee crimes.

There’s even speculation over a possible international network of beekeeper thieves after regions in Europe lost dozens of hives all at once earlier this year. There’s also big money in bee honey. In New Zealand, many beekeepers increased security after becoming a major target in 2017 for those hoping to cash in on manuka honey, a trendy sweetener known for its health benefits. Dubbed “liquid gold,” an eight-ounce jar sells for an average of $60; the manuka industry alone is expected to reach $2.16 billion by 2025.

 

Our Sources:

→ Initial coverage: Washington Post
→ Recent theft in France: NPR
→ Beekeepers stealing from beekeepers in California: ABC7
→ Hot markets and major losses for keepers globally: National Geographic
→ Bee decline (plus how pesticides make it worse): Vox

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TECHNOLOGY
Australian court says artificial intelligence can be named inventor on patents
Fri Aug 13

Patents are intended to encourage innovation. These legal documents publicize the invention, including its owner and inventor. While the same person can be both, in many cases the owner (who owns all rights to the invention) is different from the inventor (who helped conceive the invention). A patent may also have multiple inventors, though dual-ownership is discouraged. But what happens if the inventor isn’t even human?

This brings us to the debate over artificial inventorship. As technology advances, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly able to create and invent. Let’s say a pharmaceutical company develops two new drugs: one by its AI and one by an employee. Current patent law definitions prohibit that AI from being listed as the inventor on a patent, but the employee can proceed as usual. And since patent rules are strict about ensuring the listed inventors are the actual inventors, the title of “inventor” can’t simply be stuck onto the closest human in place of the AI. This makes it impossible for some AI inventions to get legal recognition, which some argue will stifle innovation.

But some are trying to change that, finding success recently in Australia where a court decided AI can be credited as an inventor on a patent (just weeks after South Africa became first in the world to do so). The case specifically cites an AI program called DABUS that has so far invented a type of robot-friendly container and a light that mimics neural activity. DABUS’ creator has been working since 2019 to convince courts that AI can and should be inventor eligible. He has faced dismissals from courts in the U.K., U.S., and Europe. Opponents have specific concerns in mind, namely in enforcement, speed of innovation, and ownership.

  • First, how would such AI be regulated? The laws in place were written at a time when non-human invention was not a consideration. Many are calling for legislative changes but also recognize that it may be a slow journey.
  • Second, what if the AI creates a harmful invention? While there weren’t specific concerns mentioned, an overall fear lingers over these debates.
  • And who ultimately owns the intellectual property? Without guidelines, there could be a number of potential IP owners for an AI-generated invention: the AI’s developer(s), the people who supply the data, or the team that trains the data.
 

Our Sources:

→ Initial coverage: ABC Australia and National Law Review
→ Patent owners versus inventors: Henry Patent Law Firm
→ Concerns with AI inventors on patents: World Intellectual Property Organization