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AI cannot be considered an inventor, says UK Supreme Court

AI supreme court
Image credit: lazyllama / Shutterstock

Artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be considered an inventor, according to a unanimous decision from the UK Supreme Court.

A UK judge said on Wednesday that only a person could legally be considered an inventor for the sake of securing patents.

The decision was in response to a dispute between Dr Stephen Thaler and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that started in 2019.

Thaler built an AI called DABUS, which he claimed invented a food container and a light beacon on its own. The American technologist argued that the AI should be named as the inventor on the patent, and that as the creator of the AI, he should own the rights to its inventions.

The IPO did not approve DABUS as an inventor on the grounds that it is not a human person, a decision which was held up by multiple courts in 2020 and 2021.

The case was eventually taken to a Supreme Court hearing, in which five justices unanimously agreed to dismiss the claim that the AI was legally an inventor.

Lord Kitchin said the IPO “was right to decide that DABUS is not and was not an inventor of any new product or process described in the patent applications”.

“It is not a person, let alone a natural person and it did not devise any relevant invention. Accordingly, it is not and never was an inventor.”

Additionally, the judges dismissed the notion that Thaler was entitled to own the rights to any inventions created by DABUS as it is “a machine with no legal personality”.

He said the law “does not confer on any person a right to obtain a patent for any new product or process created or generated autonomously be a machine, such as DABUS, let alone a person who claims that right purely on the basis of ownership of the machine.”