‘AI can’t invent’: UK top court denies DABUS AI system ‘inventor’ status in landmark patent case

In a landmark ruling, the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected the appeal of US computer scientist Stephen Thaler, who sought patent rights for inventions created by his artificial intelligence system, DABUS.

Thaler aimed to secure two patents in the UK, but the Intellectual Property Office denied his request, asserting that under UK patent law, “an inventor must be a natural person.”

The court’s decision clarified that the appeal did not address the broader question of whether machine-generated technical advances by AI should be patentable. 

Judge David Kitchin emphasised in the written ruling, “Nor is it concerned with the question whether the meaning of the term ‘inventor’ ought to be expanded… to include machines powered by AI.”

Thaler’s legal team expressed that the judgment highlights the inadequacy of current UK patent law in safeguarding autonomously generated AI inventions. 

Earlier this year, Thaler faced a similar setback in the United States when the Supreme Court declined to review the US Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to grant patents for AI-generated inventions.

Giles Parsons, a partner at Browne Jacobson, commented that the UK Supreme Court’s decision is not surprising at this point, as AI is currently viewed as a tool rather than an agent in the patent system. 

However, he anticipates potential changes in the medium term as AI’s role evolves.

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