In a landmark decision, the UK supreme court has ruled that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be legally named as an inventor to secure patent rights. The judgment, delivered on Wednesday, emphasized that “an inventor must be a person” under the current law, settling a long-running dispute brought to the court by technologist Dr. Stephen Thaler.
Dr. Thaler contested the rejection of his attempt to list an AI named DABUS as the inventor of two patents. He argued that DABUS autonomously created a food or drink container and a light beacon, asserting his entitlement to rights over its inventions. However, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) rejected Thaler’s request in December 2019, stating that the AI was not a person and could not be officially registered as the inventor.
The dispute, centered on the Patents Act 1977 legislation, reached the high court and the court of appeal in July 2020 and July 2021, respectively. After a March hearing, the supreme court unanimously dismissed Thaler’s case. Lord Kitchin, supported by other justices, affirmed that the IPO correctly determined that “DABUS is not and was not an inventor of any new product or process” described in the patent applications. He emphasized that DABUS is not a person, lacks legal personality, and did not devise any relevant invention.
The court rejected Thaler’s argument that he could apply for patents as the AI’s owner, stating that DABUS was “a machine with no legal personality.” Lord Kitchin concluded that Dr. Thaler had “no independent right to obtain a patent in respect of any such technical advance.” The decision underscores the requirement for an inventor to be a human being under current patent law.
In essence, the ruling establishes a legal precedent in the UK, clarifying the status of AI in the patent application process and reinforcing the notion that inventors must be human entities. The judgment does not delve into whether AI can create inventions but centers on the legislative framework governing patent applications.
This decision has implications for the evolving intersection of AI technology and intellectual property law, prompting discussions on the legal recognition of AI entities and the need for potential legislative adjustments to accommodate technological advancements.
Overall, the UK Supreme Court’s ruling highlights the legal boundaries surrounding AI’s role in patent applications, emphasizing the current law’s human-centric perspective on inventorship.