U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Decide if AI Can Be a Patent 'inventor'

Patent 'inventor

A computer scientist who has waged a global campaign for patents covering inventions conceived by his artificial intelligence system asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to hear his case.

Stephen Thaler petitioned the high court to review an appeals court’s decision that patents can only be issued to human inventors and that his AI system cannot be the legal creator of inventions it generated.

Thaler said in his brief that AI is being used to innovate in fields ranging from medicine to energy, and that rejecting AI-generated patents “curtails our patent system’s ability — and thwarts Congress’s intent — to optimally stimulate innovation and technological progress.”

Thaler has said that his DABUS system, short for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience, generated unique prototypes for a beverage holder and light beacon on its own.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and a Virginia federal court rejected patent applications for the inventions on the grounds that DABUS is not a person. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld those decisions last year and said U.S. patent law unambiguously requires inventors to be human beings.

Thaler told the high court that the law should not be read to require a human inventor.

“Nowhere in the text of the Patent Act has Congress restricted the term ‘inventor’ — or the word ‘individual’ within its definition — solely to natural persons,” Thaler’s petition said.

The petition said that laws like the Patent Act “employ broad language that is meant to accommodate technological change.”

The U.S. Copyright Office also denied Thaler’s application for copyright protection for AI-generated art, which Thaler has appealed. In a separate dispute, the office also rejected copyrights for images an artist made with the generative AI system Midjourney in February.

Thaler has also applied for DABUS patents in other countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Saudi Arabia. The UK’s Supreme Court heard his case there earlier this month.

The case is Thaler v. Vidal, U.S. Supreme Court.


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