May 18, 2024

AI Cannot Be Named as Inventor Says UK Supreme Court

In a landmark verdict on Wednesday, the UK Supreme Court confirmed that AI cannot patent any inventions. The ruling brings an end to a long-running dispute between technologist Dr Stephen Thaler and the Intellectual Property Office.

The dispute began in 2019 when Dr. Thaler tried to get his AI machine DABUS recognized as the inventor of a food or drink container and a light beacon. In order to be able to patent an invention under the current law, “an inventor must be a person”, the apex court concluded.

The container and the light beacon were invented autonomously by DABUS, Dr. Thaler claims. However, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in December 2019 rejected his application to get DABUS registered as the inventor in patent applications.

With the IPO staying firm in its stand that only humans can be named as inventors, Dr. Thaler took the battle to the court to seek a reversal of the IPO’s decision.

Dr. Thaler expressed his disappointment over the ruling, describing DABUS as a sentient and conscious form of intelligence.

The case was previously heard at the High Court and Court of Appeal. Both courts ruled in favor of the IPO and backed its decision that only “persons” can be granted patent rights, in July 2020 and July 2021 respectively. As Dr. Thaler continued to pursue the case further, it ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court hearing was held on the dispute in March this year, following which the panel of five judges ultimately decided to dismiss Dr. Thaler’s case.

Lord Kitchin, one of the five judges on the panel, agreed with the IPO that DABUS is not the inventor of any new processes or products mentioned in the patent applications.

Describing DABUS as a machine without any legal personality he went on to add that Dr. Thaler’s applications should be withdrawn since he “failed to identify any person or persons whom he believed to be the inventor or inventors of the inventions described in the applications”.

Dr. Thaler Barred From Registering Himself as an Inventor

The US-based developer also argued that as the owner of DABUS, he was entitled to patents for the AI’s inventions.

However, this argument was shot down by the Supreme Court too, with Lord Kitchin saying that Dr. Thaler doesn’t have any independent right to obtain a patent for a product or process that was created autonomously by an AI machine like DABUS.

The lack of protection for AI-generated inventions can push industries out of the country and disincentivize the disclosure of AI inventions.

Lawyer Robert Jehan, who represented Dr. Thaler at the Supreme Court hearing, described the judgment as an example of how the current UK patent laws aren’t fit to support the country’s aim to become a global center for innovation driven by data and AI.

During the Supreme Court hearing in March, Dr. Thaler’s lawyers insisted that the patent law did not specify the “nature of the inventor” and excluded non-human inventors from patenting their creations.

Stuart Baran from the IPO argued that the “person or persons” believed to be the inventor had to be identified under the patent law.

However, he also added that the IPO recognizes AI as a rapidly developing technological area and understands that the situation might undergo considerable changes in the future.

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