UK court rejects AI as inventor of patents.

UK court rejects AI as inventor of patents.

By Mariel Chichisola and Florencia Gutierrez

On December 20 th, 2023, the UK Supreme Court ruled on the recognition of artificial intelligence (AI) as a patent inventor in the case of Thaler v Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. At the center of the dispute was American innovator Stephen Thaler and his creation, an AI named Dabus, who sought to be recognized as the creator of two inventions: a food container and a flashlight.

The case began in 2018, when Stephen Thaler, the founder of Imagination Engines, embarked on a mission to patent his creation, his artificial intelligence machine DABUS (“Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience” or, in English, Device for the Autonomous Creation of a Unified Consciousness). In his application, he claimed that this artificial intelligence was not only the driving force, but also the true inventor of a revolutionary robot-manipulable food container and an emergency warning flashlight.

Both the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) rejected the application on the grounds that Dabus was not a human being and therefore could not be recognized as an inventor. The dispute escalated to the High Court, where a five-judge panel considered the arguments presented.

Judge David Kitchin clearly stated in his ruling, “Dabus is not and has never been an inventor of any new product or process described in the patent applications. He is not a person, much less a natural person, and he did not conceive of any relevant invention“. This ruling reinforces the interpretation of the 1977 Patent Act, which requires an inventor to be a human being or an entity, excluding artificial intelligence.

Thaler’s lawyers argued that the law does not explicitly exclude non-human inventors. Despite this, the Supreme Court ruled that current law requires the identification of human persons as inventors. Although the ruling did not directly address the question of whether autonomous machines can generate patentable technical advances, it sets an important precedent in the area of intellectual property and AI technology.

In summary, this judgment provides a perspective on the complex relationship between artificial intelligence, innovation and creativity in the patent context. It is a starting point for future debates and legislation that will need to balance human rights with the growing role of artificial intelligence in creativity and innovation.

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