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20th December 2023
The Supreme Court ruled on 20 December 2023 that a machine powered by artificial intelligence cannot be the inventor of a patent under the current legislation in the United Kingdom.
This case concerned two applications which were filed by Dr Thaler. He stated that in each case the inventor was a machine called DABUS, which acted autonomously and was powered by artificial intelligence, and that by virtue of his ownership of DABUS he had the right to the grant of the patents.
The Supreme Court interpreted sections 7 and 13 Patents Act 1977 (the “Act”) and held that “inventor” for the purposes of the Act must be a natural person and, therefore, cannot be a machine such as DABUS.
As Dr Thaler was not the inventor, for him to be entitled to apply for and obtain a patent in respect of any invention in any technical advance made by DABUS he must fall within either section 7(2)(b) or (c) of the Act. It was held that he did not fall within either of those sections.
Finally, it was held that the Court of Appeal was correct to find that the applications are now deemed to have been withdrawn as Dr Thaler had failed to satisfy either of the requirements in section 13(2) of the Act within the 16-month period beginning on the filing date of the applications. He failed to identify any natural person or persons whom he believed to be the inventor or inventors and his ownership of DABUS did not entitle him to the grant of the patents.
This case was not concerned with the wider question of whether machines powered by artificial intelligence can create patentable inventions. However, moving forward, it is unclear how such inventions can be protected with patents under the current legislation if neither the machine nor its human owner can be named as the inventor.
Tom Griffin, Trainee Solicitor