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  • William Kanaan

AI cannot be an inventor under UK patent law

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems cannot be the owner of, nor be transferred, patent rights in the UK, the Supreme Court has ruled.


UK patent law as currently enacted does not provide for AI inventorship, therefore only a human can be named as the inventor on a patent application in the UK.


The claimant was seeking to patent inventions that he claims were derived from an AI machine called 'DABUS'. He claimed that the owner of AI systems should be the default owner of patents for inventions derived from those systems, and that it should be possible to name those AI systems as inventors on patent applications. However, the UK Intellectual Property Office disagreed, and its findings have subsequently been upheld by the Supreme Court.


In its ruling, the Supreme Court confirmed that the appeal raised only limited questions of law and not the broader questions of whether AI-derived inventions are patentable or whether the term “inventor” needs to be broadened to include machines which generate new or non-obvious products.


The court held that:


“An inventor within the meaning of the 1977 Act must be a natural person, and DABUS is not a person at all, let alone a natural person: it is a machine and on the factual assumption underpinning these proceedings, created or generated the technical advances disclosed in the applications on its own.”


“Section 7 [of the Patents Act 1977] does not confer on any person a right to obtain a patent for any new product or process created or generated autonomously by a machine, such as DABUS, let alone a person who claims that right purely on the basis of ownership of the machine.”


The court further rejected the claimant's claim that his situation was analogous to that of a business owning patents for inventions developed by their employees, which the legislation does provide for.


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