AI rejected as inventor by Court of Appeal

A man’s plea to have an AI system recognized as the inventor of two patents has been rejected by The Court of Appeal of England and Wales.

Stephen Thaler, founder of US-based AI firm Imagination Engines, attempted to credit two inventions to the firm’s neural network model DABUS.

Patents for a food container which can change shape and a flashing light were filed to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in 2018.

Thaler has applied for multiple patents for creations credited to the AI in the United States, Australia, Israel, and South Africa, and has been successful at having an AI ruled as an inventor in South Africa and Australia.

However, the UK IPO denied his application on the basis that only a “natural person” can be considered an inventor according to the UK Patents Act 1977.

In September 2021, a US judge ruled against one of Thaler’s appeals, also on the basis that an AI cannot be considered a “natural person”.

The UK Court of Appeal denied the decision in a split 2-1 judgment against the case.

Lord Justice Birss wished to allow the appeal, noting there would be no reason to deny it if Thaler had a "genuine belief" that DABUS was the inventor.

“This case raises important philosophical questions and indicates we will need to modernise patent law to deal with AI inventions,” said Giles Parsons, partner at law firm Browne Jacobson.

“Patent law was designed for the inventions of the first and second industrial revolutions.
He added: “It is not properly equipped to deal with the challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.”

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