The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed last year’s ruling that an artificial intelligence (AI) machine cannot qualify as an “inventor” under the Patent Act.
The lawsuit involved a machine called DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience) created by Stephen Thaler, president of AI firm Imagination Engines, and the holder of over 70 patents. Thaler named DABUS as the inventor of two products (a food container with a surface that helps with insulation by using fractal geometry, and a flashing light for attracting attention in emergencies) on two patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Patent applications require the listing of an inventor’s first and last name. Thaler wrote on each of the applications that “the invention [was] generated by artificial intelligence,” and attached several supporting documents. Thaler also included a document showing that DABUS assigned all inventor rights to him as an individual.
The USPTO denied Thaler’s application on the ground that “a machine does not qualify as an inventor.” Thaler requested reconsideration and the USPTO denied the application a second time, then explaining that all patent inventors must be “natural persons.”
As I covered here, Thaler next appealed to the U.S. District Court, which agreed with the agency that under the applicable statute “individuals” listed as inventors must be natural persons. On appeal from the district court’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit upheld the denial with the simple explanation: “Here, there is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings.” They also assessed costs against Thaler, the appellant.
I said last year that “we probably haven’t heard the last of this issue”, especially after Thaler obtained a South African patent without debate, and successfully argued to an Australian court that the Australia Patents Act should have a flexible interpretation of “inventorship” to include AI. Will he appeal this ruling too? Apparently so, based on this statement from his attorney Ryan Abbott to Law & Crime:
“We were disappointed by the decision of the Federal Circuit which adopted a narrow and textualist approach to resolving the key issues in this case. It ignores the purpose of the Patent Act and the outcome that AI-generated inventions are now unpatentable in the United States. That is an outcome with real negative social consequences,” Abbott said. “We do plan to appeal.”
There you go. Apparently, this does not compute, er, we still haven’t heard the last of this dispute. 😉
So, what do you think of the fact that the Federal Circuit affirmed the ruling that AI is not an inventor? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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