The UK Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a computer scientist’s attempt to secure patents for inventions generated by his artificial intelligence system. Stephen Thaler, a U.S. computer scientist, sought to register two patents in the UK for innovations produced by his “creativity machine,” known as DABUS, reported Reuters.
The UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) initially rejected Thaler’s application, asserting that under UK patent law, an inventor must be a natural person or a company, not a machine. Thaler appealed the decision to the UK Supreme Court, which upheld the IPO’s refusal, emphasizing that “an inventor must be a natural person.”
Judge David Kitchin clarified in the court’s written ruling that the case did not address the broader question of whether advancements produced autonomously by AI should be patentable. Thaler’s lawyers, in response to the decision, stated that the ruling highlights the inadequacy of current UK patent law in protecting AI-generated inventions and supporting industries relying on AI in technological development.
A spokesperson for the IPO welcomed the decision, acknowledging the legitimate questions surrounding the patent system’s handling of AI creations. The government plans to review this area of law in light of the evolving role of AI in innovation.
Thaler faced a similar setback earlier this year in the United States, where the Supreme Court declined to hear his challenge against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to grant patents for inventions originating from his AI system.
Giles Parsons, a partner at Browne Jacobson law firm, commented that the Supreme Court’s ruling is currently not expected to significantly impact the patent system, as AI is considered a tool rather than an agent. He anticipates potential changes in the medium term and believes the system can adapt as needed.
Rajvinder Jagdev, an intellectual property partner at Powell Gilbert, noted that the ruling aligns with similar decisions in courts across Europe, Australia, and the U.S., providing clarity that inventors must be natural persons. However, he emphasized that the judgment does not prohibit individuals from using AI to devise inventions, provided that a person is identified as the inventor.
In a separate case last month, London’s High Court ruled that artificial neural networks can qualify for patent protection under UK law, indicating the evolving legal landscape surrounding AI inventions.