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A US Court Rules That AI’s Cannot File for Patents, Only Humans Can (for Now)

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

A US judge ruled that an artificial intelligence cannot be listed as the inventor of a patent. The court in the State of Virginia, ruled that inventions can only be patented under the name of a "natural person." The decision was made against someone who tried to list two designs under the name of an AI as part of a broader project to gain worldwide recognition of AI-powered inventions. Imagination Engines CEO, Stephen Thaler, built an AI called DEBUS, which independently designed a new kind of drink holder and flashing light (used to get someone's attention). The name "DEBUS," along with "Invention generated by artificial intelligence," was used in the attempted patent filing for the inventions. The creator of DEBUS would own the patents. The decision points out that inventors must take an oath and declaration to be granted a patent. Thaler instead issued a statement saying the sole inventor was a "creativity machine" with no legal personality or ability to execute the oath and declaration. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) decided in 2019 that the words Congress uses to describe inventors like "individual," "himself," or "herself," imply human beings. The USPTO also noted that the Code of Federal Regulations describes an inventor as a "person" multiple times. This ruling upholds the 2019 USPTO decision. Other countries such as Sout Africa and Australia have gone in the other direction though and allowed patents to be filed by AI. Indeed the judge in this case commented in their final ruling that one day Congress may need to have a look at this rule again when AI had become more sophisticated.


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