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The US Patent & Trademark Office has released a petition decision explaining that, under current law, only natural persons may be named as an inventor in a patent application. This conclusion was also made by the The European Patent Office (EPO) and United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) last year.

Natural persons? What led to this petition in the first place?

In August last year, an international team of patent attorneys led by Professor Ryan Abbott of the University of Surrey announced that they have filed patents internationally for “AI-generated inventions”, in other words, an artificial intelligence program created a new invention from scratch without the input or help from a human inventor.

The team, known as The Artificial Inventor Project, sought to list an AI named DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience) as the inventor of the patents, and the inventor and owner of DABUS, Dr Stephen Thaler, as the owner of said patents.

According to the project’s FAQ, the team believes that the acts that define a person as an inventor, which is to conceptualize an invention, can be done by a machine, and in some circumstances, the process may not even involve a person at all. Ultimately, the goal isn’t to give AI the rights to own patents, but for the inventing AI to be recognised as the inventor, and the owner of the AI as the legal owners of the patents & inventions it creates.

However, The European Patent Office (EPO) and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) have refused the patents on the grounds that they do not meet the the legal requirements that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being.

A Need for Changes in IP Law?

When patent laws first appeared, it was inconceivable that a machine can invent something, and thus was written to define a human as an inventor. But with today’s advances in AI, it can create music, artistic works, new materials, or even new AI, all which can be copyrighted or patented.

Professor Abbot believes that by granting patent protection to AI creations, it will encourage AI developers and owners to develop inventive AI, which will ultimately encourage innovation for the betterment of society. He further argues in his article to WIPO Magazine that allowing a person to be listed as an inventor for an AI-generated invention will let them take credit for work they have not done, reducing the value of human ingenuity.

This article is a summary of these following articles, click on the links below to read it in full:
USPTO E-Newsletter on Patent Decision
EPO Announcement December 2019
The Artificial Inventor Project
TIME Magazine on AI & Music
American Scientist
Phys.Org
Mentalfloss.com
WIPO Magazine December 2019

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