I have been monitoring patent application filings around the world that list DABUS (the “Device for the Autonomous Bootingstraiming of Unified Sentience”) as the sole inventor. At issue is whether an Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine alone can be listed as an inventor on a patent application. A detailed chart, with country-by-country decisions, can be found here: Can an Artificial Intelligence (AI) be an Inventor? 

In today’s posting, I provide updates to this article. These come from the respective decisions of the patent offices, or related appellant courts, of New Zealand, EPO, and the UK.

The major finding is that while the patent offices or appellant courts of these jurisdictions continue to refuse to allow an Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine to be listed as a sole inventor, an AI machine can be listed as an inventor so long as there is at least one human inventor listed jointly. That is, at least for these jurisdictions:

an AI machine can be listed as a Joint Inventor along with at least one Human Inventor

Details for each of these jurisdictions follow:

New Zealand: On January 31, 2022, the New Zealand patent office (IPONZ) found that an AI machine cannot be an inventor (or at least a sole inventor) under the current New Zealand Patents Act. See Decision re Patent Application No. 776029. At issue was the DABUS application, as filed with the New Zealand patent office. The New Zealand patent office found that New Zealand patent law uses the term “inventor” to refer to “only to a natural person, an individual” and “[t]hat inventors fall within the class of natural human persons is intrinsic to the proper construction of the Act.”

EPO Update: In late December 2021, the EPO affirmed that an EPO patent application cannot name an AI machine as the sole inventor. If an AI inventor is to be named, there must be at least one human inventor jointly listed. The decision was made regarding the DABUS related applications EP18275163 (food container) and EP18275174(neural transmitter). Specifically, the EPO Legal Board of Appeal provided its decision in cases J 8/20 and J9/20. There, the EPO determined that only a human inventor could be listed as an inventor within the meaning of the European Patent Convention (EPC). 

UK Update: In September 2021, the UK Court of Appeal affirmed its previous decision that a patent application must identify at least one human inventor. See Stephen Thaler v Comptroller General of Patents Trade Marks and Designs [2021] EWCA Civ 1374. By a majority (2 to 1), the UK Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of Dr. Stephen Thaler (the creator of DABUS) who filed two patent applications naming DABUS as the sole inventor. The Court of Appeals affirmed that, under the UK Patents Act 1977, the right to apply for an invention must originate from a human inventor. 

Additional information, including a chart tracking AI inventorship around the world, can be found at Can an Artificial Intelligence (AI) be an Inventor?

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