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Well, AI cannot be patent ‘inventor’, UK Supreme Court rules

In a remarkable legal decision, the UK Supreme Court has ruled against a U.S. computer scientist’s bid to register patents for inventions created by an artificial intelligence system, reinforcing the stance that inventors must be human or corporate entities, not machines.

Background of the Case

Stephen Thaler sought to obtain two patents in the UK for creations attributed to his AI system named DABUS, described as a “creativity machine.” Thaler’s endeavor was initially rejected by Britain’s Intellectual Property Office, which maintained that an inventor, under current legal frameworks, must be a natural person or a company rather than an AI system.

Supreme Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court, upholding the earlier decision, unanimously dismissed Thaler’s appeal. The court, led by Judge David Kitchin, emphasized that under UK patent law, an inventor is required to be a natural person. The ruling clarified that the case did not delve into broader questions about the patentability of technical advancements generated autonomously by AI, nor did it address whether the definition of ‘inventor’ should be expanded to include AI-powered machines.

Reactions and Implications

Thaler’s legal team expressed disappointment, stating that the judgment reveals the inadequacy of current UK patent law for protecting inventions autonomously generated by AI machines. This ruling follows a similar defeat for Thaler in the United States, where the Supreme Court declined to consider a challenge against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to issue patents for AI-created inventions.

Expert Opinion

Legal experts, like Giles Parsons of Browne Jacobson, were not surprised by the decision. Parsons noted that, for now, AI is regarded as a tool rather than an agent within the patent system. He anticipates that this perception may evolve in the medium term, suggesting that future legal frameworks could adapt to the advancing role of AI in innovation.

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