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June 26, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Ford Applies for Patent for Drone That Jumpstarts Your Car

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News Radio 700 WLW, the Ford Motor Company has filed a patent. And that patent is on drones, in specific drones that can actually help you jumpstart a battery if your car dies on the side of the road. Yeah, drones that would help you if you're in some sort of need mechanically or automotive-ly would come in and help you at least in that aspect. And I read this story, and I thought, well, this is interesting. Who wouldn't want to be rescued if someone won't stop to help you? Who wouldn't want a machine to come flying in from outer space or wherever to come down and help you jumpstart your car? But the more I read about it, the more I realized that a lot of this is just nonsense. I mean, okay, a drone flies in and examines, I guess, your battery or it looks at your car, and then these wires descend and they hook up to your battery, they charge your battery, and off you go. Well, wait a minute. Hang on one second. Does that technology exist right now? Turns out, well, not really. Is it practical? Well, what do you mean? Well, I mean, if your car is dead on the side of the road, wouldn't it be easier if you have triple A, just call triple A, or maybe hope that somebody comes by and maybe helps you jumpstart your car. Or my goodness, if nothing else, you just call a tow truck. And the more I wrote about it, the more I realized that patents are filed all the time and largely just to block or keep someone else from doing it sometime in the future. And then I read a blog that was written by my next guest. I've had John Rizvi on the show many times, they call him the Patent Professor. In fact, he has a patent on that particular title, but he is an attorney and adjunct professor of patent law at Nova Southeastern Law School in Florida. And he's authored several books on patents. And whenever it comes to this kind of proprietary technology, I want to have John on the show. I'm glad he's with us now. John, how are you on this glorious day?


Yeah, I'm good. Always a pleasure to be here.


Am I reading this correctly? I mean, I don't sense that Ford has this technology yet. But just in case they come up with it, they're covered. Is that where this is right now?


You're 100% correct. And it's funny, I mean, a bit of history: in the 1800s, the patent office required a working model to be submitted when you filed a patent application. And clearly, you know, there are over 11 million patents now. That requirement was dropped a long time ago. But patents don't have to have a working model, and the patent office does not review applications for practicality. Even if they work absent something ridiculous, like if they defy the laws of science or a perpetual motion device, something like that, they would look at. But otherwise, they take the patent at face value. They're not looking at practical aspects. As a lawyer, I can see they're not looking at liability either, because this patent talks about carrying the charging block, which is kind of like a battery through the air. Talk about liability. If you've ever lifted a car battery like that, you can imagine a drone flying with a car carrying a car battery out to you like that being followed or going through a windshield. We're talking major, major harm.


What could possibly go wrong? But in other words, let's say I had this brilliant idea that I was going to develop a bottle that would disperse soda from the bottom instead of the top of it, and all I had to do was just hold it above my head. And I thought it was the greatest idea I've ever had in my life. Are you telling me that all that I would be required to do to get a patent in this day and age is not produce said bottle but just let the people who issue patents know I had this brilliant idea, and they would issue me a patent on it? Is that what's going on?


There are three requirements for patentability: utility, it has to do what it purports to do; novelty, it has to be new; and non-obviousness, it can't be obvious. But there's no requirement that it be practical or anybody wants it. It certainly seems unique and new. I've never heard of that. Now, whether anybody would want to lift a bottle over their head and have the liquid come out the bottom, you never know. I mean, that's why there are examples like rollerblading. I always think of the patent attorney when a new inventor comes in and says, 'You know what, I've got a way to ski where you not only can fall forwards and backwards, but now you've got to balance so that you don't fall to the left and right.' And it goes like 'Eureka! You've got it there.' So it's tough to really tell where there's commercial value for an idea. But you hit the nail right on the head that a lot of times companies are filing these patents really to stop competitors and to get a monopoly and create like a patent web in the industry. And that seems to be what Ford's doing. They have a couple of weeks ago, I believe I was on your show as well with Ford's patent on a self-repossessing car. This is if you fall behind on your payments, and there's no repo man coming to get your car, and so the car just drives itself off and returns itself to the bank or the repo lot or wherever these cars go. So you know, that one got a lot of backlash. Clearly, that's not popular.


No one wants your car like just taking off from the driveways. I'll see you later. Sorry.


Right, is that, in that patent, they talked about various steps that's like the last resort. But before he does that, one option is an unpleasant sound is emitted from the car radio. This is the exact wording from the patent document. So you can't even listen to—no one could listen to your show, all of a sudden, you'd be overtaken by some noise. That's annoying enough to make you go and hopefully make your car payment.


Yeah, even more annoying than me. That could be a community service, John. But you're right. Let's say, let's just say that down the road, 5, 7, 10 years down the road - and again, it's very hard, unless you're some sort of visionary or some sort of psychic, to know exactly where technology is going. But let's just say 5, 7, 10 years down the road, that General Motors decides it wants to do this drone thing. Well, wait a minute, what Ford would say all the way back in 2023, we got a patent on this. So General Motors, you're going to have to pay us. So there's a monetary exchange that would happen if indeed this thing actually becomes a reality. Correct?


Yeah, 100%. And the way patents are written, they're written in a really broad sense so that technology can evolve. Ford has patents that talk about, in fact, the battery terminals being accessible from the outside without an owner even being there. So this could be, for example, if your battery's dead, your car dies, you may be able to just lock your car, close the trunk, close the hood, and take off and these drones could come by and recharge your battery without you even being present.


I mean, yeah, it's just the whole concept is crazy. We're chatting with John Rizvi, we're talking about, well, in this instance, Ford seeking a patent on drones coming in to jumpstart your car in case you're on the side of the road. You know, you and I've had a lot of conversations. I just want to take it just a little, little using the car analogy, a different little off-ramp here. But this whole thing with ChatGPT and in particular, any kind of AI, it kind of murky, murky is the water a little bit here. I've been seeing a lot about AI and ChatGPT and how things are generated and what, in essence, is creative property. Are things that you have come up with? How do we navigate that? Who's to say if something appears on ChatGPT that it's not something that I've already come up with? Or perhaps even copyrighted as a thought, amusing, or some sort of ravings of a lunatic? Where are we going with all of this artificial intelligence, in your opinion


Yeah, well, in my opinion, it's making people dumber. At the art of replacing real intelligence, I mean, you know, imagine today there are a lot of kids that if their rearview camera didn't work, they couldn't back out of a parking space. The blind spots on cars, the safety devices that now alert you, but if that malfunctions, fewer and fewer people are looking out their windows in an actual mirror to make sure there's not a car next door. So that's a concern that I have with AI from a legal standpoint. The Copyright Office has held that, you know, a computer, that it seems, like, so basic, like they even have to have a holding on this. But to be an author requires that you be human, and attach GPT, a computer cannot own rights to a copyright under there, and the laws are actually supported by, I don't know if you remember the monkey selfie case from a few years ago. Yes, a photographer's cell phone was stolen, a monkey accidentally took a bunch of selfies. And the photographer filed for a copyright, claiming that because it was his phone, that he should have rights to it. The Copyright Office looked at it and said, 'Well, no, the monkey is the person, the person, the thing, the animal that took the pictures, and you have to be a human to be entitled to a copyright.' And that's what's going to be a real obstacle to chat GPT because the computer is the one that's actually generating the content. Now, authors are claiming, 'Yeah, but we're putting in the queries, and the computer is no different than a tool like a paintbrush for a painter.' But there's a lot of real painters, they would disagree. They say, 'Well, wait a minute, you know, yes, we use the brush. But a lot of the control on the brush, the artistry is us, it's different than when you use artificial intelligence.' And until your computer can put in terms that say 'draw a frog with a horse head,' and then three minutes later, it's got this beautiful drawing, well, who's the author? Or the person that just simply said 'frog with a horse head?' Is that going to give the computer rights? Certainly, the computer can't because it's not human.


Right. Right. Imagine if the whole painting of the Sistine Chapel went that way. You know? 'I just put it in my GP.' No, but my point being is that a lot of the stuff that's input into Chat GPT, where is it coming from? Who is it that's doing that? And do they not have proprietary rights to whatever is in there? In other words, you could say, 'Give me 10 paragraphs on Donald Trump,' and it could fish it out from anywhere, but where's it fishing it out from? Who's putting in the information for it to dish out the information? The person who generated that information, to me, would seem to be the proprietary owner of that intellectual property, right? It would seem to me it would be that way. Could you make an argument that way in court?


Right. Right. And that has been made. Because, you know, after all, Chat GPT's source material is pretty much everything online and has access to billions of documents, and there's no credit given for their sources. So yeah, I mean, there are no court decisions determining that, but that's certainly something that I believe is going to be litigated.


What is your profession? It seems like it's morphing daily for different things, drones, and Chat GPT. If you and I had this conversation 10 years ago, I don't think either one of us would know what the hell we were talking about. But here we are in 2023, and when it comes to things like that, you're our guy. John, thank you so much for your time, and stay well. We need to hear your voice, okay?


Thank you. Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.

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