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Landmark UK Case Rules Against AI as Patent Inventor

In a groundbreaking legal battle, an American computer scientist, Stephen Thaler, faced a significant setback when his attempt to secure patents in the UK for inventions developed by his artificial intelligence (AI) system was rejected. The case has become a pivotal point in determining the eligibility of AI systems to be recognized as inventors and secure patents.

Thaler sought to obtain two patents in the UK for inventions created by his AI system, DABUS. However, the UK Intellectual Property Office rejected his application, citing the requirement that the inventor must be either a human or a legal entity, excluding machines from eligibility.

Despite an appeal to the British Supreme Court, Thaler’s case was dismissed on the 20th, with Judge David Kitchin emphasizing that the rejection was based on the specific provision in British patent law stating that “the inventor must be a natural person.”

The ruling, however, was clarified not to address the broader question of whether advancements produced by autonomous AI-powered machines are patentable, as noted by Judge Kitchin.

Thaler’s legal team issued a statement asserting that the decision highlights the inadequacy of current UK patent law in safeguarding inventions autonomously generated by AI machines. They argued that the ruling has serious implications for industries relying on AI for technological innovation.

In response, a spokesperson for the UK Intellectual Property Office acknowledged the complexity of addressing legal issues concerning the patent system and intellectual property rights related to AI creations. The government pledged to continue reviewing the law in this area.

Thaler faced a similar defeat in the United States earlier in the year when challenging the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to grant patents for AI-generated inventions. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Giles Parsons, a partner at Browne Jacobson law firm, opined that, for now, the ruling’s impact on the patent system is limited because AI is viewed as a tool rather than an agent. However, he anticipated changes in the medium term, suggesting that the legal landscape could evolve as AI’s role in invention processes becomes more prominent.

Rajvinder Jagdev, an intellectual property partner at Powell Gilbert, echoed the ruling’s alignment with similar decisions in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Jagdev clarified that while the judgment upholds the requirement for the inventor to be a natural person, it does not preclude individuals from using AI to design an invention, provided they are recognized as the inventor when applying for a patent.

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