AI systems can’t patent inventions, US federal circuit court confirms

Technology
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The US federal circuit court has confirmed that AI systems cannot patent inventions because they are not human beings.

The ruling is the latest failure in a series of quixotic legal battles by computer scientist Stephen Thaler to copyright and patent the output of various AI software tools he’s created.

In 2019, Thaler failed to copyright an image on behalf of an AI system he dubbed Creativity Machine, with that decision upheld on appeal by the US Copyright Office in 2022. In a parallel case, the US Patent Office ruled in 2020 that Thaler’s AI system DABUS could not be a legal inventor because it was not a “natural person,” with this decision then upheld by a judge in 2021. Now, the federal circuit court has, once more, confirmed this decision.

EU’s patent office and Australian High Court have made similar rulings in recent years (though, in Australia, a federal court did initially rule in favor of AI patent-holders).

According to BloombergLaw, Thaler plans to appeal the circuit court’s ruling, with his attorney, Ryan Abbott of Brown, Neri, Smith & Khan LLP, criticizing the court’s “narrow and textualist approach” to the Patent Act.

Abbott told the publication: “It ignores the purpose of the Patent Act and the outcome that AI-generated inventions are now unpatentable in the United States. That is an outcome with real negative social consequences.”

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