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Top UK Court Rules AI Cannot Be Designated as an ‘Inventor’ in Patent Dispute

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Top UK Court Rules AI Cannot Be Designated as an 'Inventor' in Patent Dispute

In a pivotal decision on Wednesday, the highest court in the United Kingdom declared that artificial intelligence cannot be designated as an inventor on a patent application. This ruling is expected to carry substantial implications, particularly as the use of AI tools continues to expand. The legal matter arose from two patent applications submitted by Stephen Thaler in 2018, encompassing a food packaging shape and a specific type of flashing light.

Instead of identifying himself as the inventor, he attributed the invention to his AI machine, named “DABUS.” In the patent filings, he asserted his personal entitlement to the patents as the “owner of the creativity machine ‘DABUS.'” The initial response from the U.K. Intellectual Property Office contended that he had not adhered to patent requirements mandating the listing of a person as the inventor and the provision of a description outlining how ownership rights were derived from that individual, in this instance, the AI.

Thaler contested the decision through appeals, asserting that he had fulfilled all criteria outlined in the 1977 patent legislation, but his appeal was rejected. Subsequent appeals to the U.K.’s High Court and Court of Appeal also dismissed his claim, rejecting the notion that AI could be designated as an inventor. The Supreme Court, in its judgment on Wednesday, clarified that it was not addressing the overarching question of whether technological advancements produced by AI-driven tools and machines should be eligible for patents or whether the definition of the term “inventor” should be broadened.

Nevertheless, the court determined that according to the current patent law, the designated “inventor” must be a “natural person.” It also dismissed Thaler’s argument asserting that he still had the right to submit and secure patents for the inventions detailed in the applications based on his ownership of DABUS. This rejection was grounded in the requirement that a patent application must identify an inventor, and that inventor must be an individual.

The Supreme Court observed, “Dr. Thaler has explicitly stated that he is not the inventor; rather, he contends that the inventions detailed in the applications were created by DABUS, and his entitlement to patents for those inventions stems from his ownership of DABUS.” Thaler’s legal representatives, in a statement to Reuters, asserted that the judgment “affirms that the current UK patent law is entirely inadequate for safeguarding inventions autonomously generated by AI machines.”

Thaler pursued comparable appeals concerning the same products in U.S. courts, where similar rulings emphasized the necessity for human inventors in patent applications. Tim Harris, a patent litigator at the law firm Osborne Clarke, conveyed in emailed remarks, “Despite the growing tendency to anthropomorphize AI and attribute achievements to it, the UK Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the Patents Act mandates a natural person as the inventor to secure a patent.”

Had Dr. Thaler asserted that he was the inventor and utilized DABUS as a highly advanced tool, the outcome of the proceedings might have varied. However, the Supreme Court was not tasked with addressing this specific issue. Nor was it tasked with delving into broader inquiries, such as whether technological advancements produced by autonomously acting AI should be eligible for patents.

About Rajesh Parmar

Rajesh Parmar

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