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The UK Supreme Court hears a landmark patent case involving an AI “inventor”


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In a landmark case concerning whether artificial intelligence (AI) systems can own patent rights, an American computer scientist on Thursday urged the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court to rule that he is entitled to patents over inventions created by his AI system.

In the UK, Stephen Thaler is requesting two patents for inventions that, in his words, were created by his “creativity machine,” known as DABUS.

His attempt to register the patents was rejected on the grounds that an invention cannot be made by a machine but rather by a person, a business, or both.

Thaler’s lawyer, Robert Jehan, told the Supreme Court in London that Thaler is “entitled to the rights of the DABUS inventions” because UK patent law doesn’t say that an invention “must have a human inventor to be patentable.”

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The owner of an AI system is “entitled to inventions generated by the system and to the grant of patents for those inventions if patentable,” he claimed in court filings.

The UK Intellectual Property Office, which initially rejected Thaler’s applications in 2019, was represented by attorneys who argued the appeal should be rejected.

The British government recently held a public consultation on how AI-created inventions should be handled under the UK patent system, according to Stuart Baran, who claimed that the government decided not to change the law.

He added that while Thaler’s application to register DABUS as an inventor was approved in South Africa, his attempts to submit similar applications in the European Union, the United States, Australia, and Germany had all been rejected.

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According to London-based patent attorney Mark Marfé, who is not involved in the case, Thaler’s Supreme Court appeal marks the first time the question of whether AI systems can own and transfer patent rights has been considered by a supreme-level court.

Before the hearing, Marfé said in a statement, “Patent laws will ultimately need to be amended for a machine to be named as an inventor of a patent.

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