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The USPTO follows the European line: no patents granted to non-human “inventors”

United States Patent and Trademark Office, 22 April 2020, Application no. 16/524,350

date: 15.05.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a decision of 22 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) stated that only natural persons can be considered “inventors” for the purposes of granting a patent. This decision is in line with what was previously stated by the European (EPO) and UKIPO (UKIPO) Offices. In this case, two patent applications were proposed concerning an invention developed by Dabus, a creative artificial intelligence system developed by Dr Stephen Thaler (who is listed in the application as the applicant and assignee of the patent). It is, in short, a machine that works thanks to the use of multi-level artificial neural networks, which are trained through a series of input to allow the system to realize the final invention in perfect autonomy, without human intervention. Based on this, Dabus was indicated as the sole inventor in the patent application.

However, the USPTO denied that an automatic system can be recognized as the author of an invention, for the purposes of patentability, especially in view of the fact that this would be “in contradiction with simply reading the patent statutes, which refer to persons and individuals”. The U.S. Code itself seems to imply the nature of natural persons as inventors, using terms such as “anyone who invents…”. (cf. 35 U.S.C. § 101), “self”, “individual” or “person” (cf. 35 U.S.C. § 115). In confirmation of this, the USPTO also referred to the case law of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which in a precedent stated that inventors are individuals who conceive an invention by means of a “mental act”, and as such can only be natural persons. Again, an identical concept of “conception” of the idea is stated in the USPTO Patent Examination Procedure Manual, which requires that the idea of the invention be formed in the inventor’s mind. It is precisely the textual rigour of the sources mentioned that has led the Office to deny the qualification of inventor to an IA system.

The USPTO follows the European line: no patents granted to non-human “inventors”

United States Patent and Trademark Office, 22 April 2020, Application no. 16/524,350

date: 15.05.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a decision of 22 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) stated that only natural persons can be considered “inventors” for the purposes of granting a patent. This decision is in line with what was previously stated by the European (EPO) and UKIPO (UKIPO) Offices. In this case, two patent applications were proposed concerning an invention developed by Dabus, a creative artificial intelligence system developed by Dr Stephen Thaler (who is listed in the application as the applicant and assignee of the patent). It is, in short, a machine that works thanks to the use of multi-level artificial neural networks, which are trained through a series of input to allow the system to realize the final invention in perfect autonomy, without human intervention. Based on this, Dabus was indicated as the sole inventor in the patent application.

However, the USPTO denied that an automatic system can be recognized as the author of an invention, for the purposes of patentability, especially in view of the fact that this would be “in contradiction with simply reading the patent statutes, which refer to persons and individuals”. The U.S. Code itself seems to imply the nature of natural persons as inventors, using terms such as “anyone who invents…”. (cf. 35 U.S.C. § 101), “self”, “individual” or “person” (cf. 35 U.S.C. § 115). In confirmation of this, the USPTO also referred to the case law of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which in a precedent stated that inventors are individuals who conceive an invention by means of a “mental act”, and as such can only be natural persons. Again, an identical concept of “conception” of the idea is stated in the USPTO Patent Examination Procedure Manual, which requires that the idea of the invention be formed in the inventor’s mind. It is precisely the textual rigour of the sources mentioned that has led the Office to deny the qualification of inventor to an IA system.