Artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be listed as an inventor in patent applications, the UK High Court ruled on Wednesday (20).
The case arose out of two patent applications filed by Stephen Thaler in 2018: one for a form of food packaging and another for a type of flashlight.
In the applications, instead of naming the inventor of the patent, he named his AI engine “DABUS”. Therefore, he listed his personal right to the patent as “the owner of Tapas’ creative machine”. CNBC.
Progress of the process
- The UK Intellectual Property Office responded that Thaler had failed to comply with patent conditions, which require a person to be listed as an inventor;
- The inventor cannot describe how his property rights were acquired from another person (in this case, the “person” would be DABUS);
- Thaler appealed the decision, maintaining that it met all the requirements of the 1977 Patent Act, which was dismissed;
- He appealed to the country’s highest court and appellate courts, losing both.
In its ruling, the UK Supreme Court said it did not decide the broader question of whether advanced techniques developed by AI-powered tools and machines should be patentable or whether the meaning of the term “inventor” could be expanded.
But the company understood that under the country’s current patent law, an “inventor” must be a “natural person”.
He also rejected Thaler’s argument, saying, “He is, however, entitled to file patent applications and obtain them for the inventions described and disclosed in each application based on DABUS’s right.”
A patent application is based on the fact that an inventor must be listed and the inventor must be an individual.
The Supreme Court held that “Dr. Thaler has made it clear that he is not an inventor; your case concerns inventions described in applications made by DABUS; your right to patent these inventions arises from your ownership of DABUS.”
A ReutersThaler’s lawyers said the ruling “establishes that UK patent law is wholly inadequate to protect inventions created anonymously by AI machines.”
Appeals even in the US
Thaler tried similar appeals in the US courts regarding these same patents, and was defeated under the same argument: patents must have human inventors.
“While it is increasingly easy to anthropomorphize AI and its achievements, the UK High Court has reiterated that patent law requires an inventor to be a natural person,” Tim Harris, a patent attorney at Osborne Clark, said by email. CNBC.
Had Dr. Thaler been the inventor and used DABUS as a sophisticated tool, the outcome of the procedure may have been different. However, the Supreme Court did not take a decision on this issue. Nor has it been asked to decide broader questions such as whether technological advances that enable AI to operate autonomously should be patentable.
Tim Harris is a patent attorney at Osborne Clark CNBC
“Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator.”