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    Unravelling AI's Role in Patent Inventorship: The UK Supreme Court Deliberates

    Tahir Khan
    Post by Tahir Khan
    November 30, 2023
    Unravelling AI's Role in Patent Inventorship: The UK Supreme Court Deliberates

    Exploring the Legal Complexities of AI as Inventors in Patent Law

    In a momentous legal saga, the UK Supreme Court recently convened to address a profound question: Can an Artificial Intelligence entity be recognized as the inventor of a patent? This intricate matter delves deep into the heart of intellectual property law, sparking contemplation on the future of patents in an era of AI innovation.

    The Crucial Questions at Stake

    During the hearing, the Court grappled with three pivotal questions:

    The Role of Human Inventors: Does the Patents Act of 1977 necessitate a human inventor's name in all cases, even when an AI system is deemed responsible for the invention, and no traditional human inventor is involved?

    AI-Centric Patents: Can a patent be granted without designating a human inventor when the invention is attributed to an AI machine?

    Ownership of AI-Crafted Inventions: In cases where an AI machine generates an invention, should the owner, creator, and user of that AI machine be entitled to a patent for the resulting creation?

    These inquiries underscore the profound implications of AI in patent law, raising questions about the essence of inventorship and intellectual property rights in the digital age.

    A Legal Odyssey

    This legal odyssey began with patent applications filed in 2018 by Dr Stephen Thaler, owner of the AI machine known as "DABUS." Dr Thaler asserted that DABUS was the inventor, and he held the right to the patents by virtue of his ownership.

    The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) rejected these applications, contending that an AI machine does not fit the criteria of a "person" as defined in the Patents Act of 1977. Dr Thaler's appeal journeyed through the High Court and the Court of Appeal, ultimately leading to the UK Supreme Court's doorstep.

    Arguments and Considerations

    During the recent Supreme Court hearing, legal representatives debated these intricate questions. Dr Thaler's camp argued that the Court of Appeal erred in denying property rights to an AI invention. They contended that the legislation did not explicitly demand a human inventor and drew from jurisprudence in support of their position.

    Conversely, the Comptroller-General's representative maintained that statutory language should be interpreted literally, emphasising that an applicant must identify a person or persons believed to be the inventor. They argued that policy considerations should not override this clear legal requirement.

    Impending Judgment

    As the courtroom deliberations concluded, Lord Hodge expressed the Court's acknowledgment of the profound challenges posed by AI to existing legal frameworks. This case stands at the intersection of intellectual property, contract, and tort law, offering an opportunity for the Court to shape the future of patent law in an AI-driven world.

    The legal community eagerly awaits the Court's judgment, expected before October 2023. This landmark decision will not only impact patent law but also contribute to the ongoing global conversation about AI's place in our legal systems and society.

    Stay tuned for a pivotal moment in the evolving landscape of AI and the law.

    AI as Inventors: UK Supreme Court Contemplates a Legal Frontier 20th September 2022

    In a legal saga that promises to shape the future of patent law and Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation, the UK Supreme Court has embarked on a ground-breaking journey. At the heart of this legal odyssey lies the perplexing question: can AI systems be acknowledged as inventors under the purview of UK patent law?

    The Engaging Dispute

    This captivating legal drama unfolds as a dispute between Dr Stephen Thaler, a distinguished US scientist and technologist, and the comptroller-general of patents at the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). Dr Thaler asserts that an AI entity he meticulously crafted, fittingly named 'DABUS,' stands as the creative force behind a series of ground-breaking inventions. In pursuit of patent protection for these innovations, Dr Thaler boldly identified DABUS as the inventor, steadfastly asserting that the patent rights emanating from DABUS should rightfully belong to him.

    However, the UKIPO cast a formidable shadow on Dr Thaler's ambitions by rejecting his patent applications. This initial setback paved the way for a legal showdown, as Dr Thaler sought justice through the UK's judicial system.

    The High Court Verdict: A Defining Interpretation

    In the High Court ruling, Mr. Justice Marcus Smith laid down a definitive interpretation of patent law. He asserted that the 1977 Patents Act imposes a stringent requirement: a patent applicant must embody legal personality, whether as a human or a corporate entity.

    According to this legal perspective, patent rights can exclusively be conferred upon entities possessing this critical attribute of legal standing. Consequently, the term 'inventor' under patent law must unequivocally refer to a legally recognized entity.

    Furthermore, Mr. Justice Marcus Smith extended this rationale to the realm of patent rights as property rights. In this legal framework, he maintained that a machine, by virtue of its absence of legal personality, remains fundamentally disqualified from either managing or transferring patent rights. This resounding verdict declared that machines, in the eyes of the law, lack the requisite legal capacity to handle patent rights, marking a definitive stance on AI inventorship.

    The Court of Appeal's Divided Opinions

    The legal saga continued to unfold as the Court of Appeal weighed in on this pivotal matter. While the majority of the three-judge panel, including Lord Justice Arnold and Lady Justice Laing, sided with the High Court's conclusions, a dissenting perspective emerged from Lord Justice Birss. This dissenting voice posited that Thaler's assertion that DABUS was the rightful inventor, grounded in his genuine belief, adequately satisfied the statutory patent filing requirements.

    A Complex Legal Landscape

    The implications of this case ripple far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. Dr Thaler's fundamental argument that AI system owners should be default patent owners for innovations originating from their systems, and that AI entities should be recognized as inventors in patent applications, raises profound questions.

    This matter has already made its mark on international shores. Australia, for instance, unequivocally determined that under its Patents Act, only natural persons, and not AI systems, qualify as inventors. Similarly, the European Patent Office Board of Appeal and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rendered decisions favouring human inventors.

    The Global Conversation

    Legal experts anticipate that international patent laws will inevitably need to evolve to embrace the emergence of AI inventors. The case before the UK Supreme Court carries the potential to catalyse discussions on a global scale, speeding up aligning patent laws with the technological frontier. Forums like the WIPO Conversation on IP and Frontier Technologies are poised to become epicentres for these critical discussions.

    As this captivating legal journey unfolds, the world watches with bated breath, awaiting the UK Supreme Court's considered response to the dynamic intersection of AI innovation and patent law. This case is not merely a legal showdown; it is a momentous step towards defining the future of patent law in an era where machines share the stage with human ingenuity.


    In the annals of legal history, the saga of AI's role in patent inventorship, currently under the scrutinising gaze of the UK Supreme Court, will undoubtedly be remembered as a landmark chapter. This intricate tale, exploring the intricate relationship between artificial intelligence and intellectual property law, has forced us to revaluate the very essence of creativity, innovation, and legal personhood.

    Throughout this convoluted legal journey, we've confronted the paramount questions that will shape the future of patent law not only in the United Kingdom but on a global scale. The three fundamental inquiries—The Role of Human Inventors, AI-Centric Patents, and Ownership of AI-Crafted Inventions—have challenged us to redefine the boundaries of invention, human versus machine agency, and the allocation of patent rights.

    Dr Stephen Thaler's steadfast assertion that AI entities, like his creation 'DABUS,' should be recognised as inventors has ignited a spark that has transcended borders. This case has become a touchstone for a broader conversation, resonating in countries like Australia, the European Patent Office, and the United States, where the issue of AI inventorship is also under scrutiny.

    As the legal community awaits the UK Supreme Court's imminent judgment, it is with the profound understanding that we stand at the cusp of a transformative moment in patent law. The court's decision, expected before October 2023, will be a guiding light not just for patent practitioners but for the entire technological landscape.

    In the ever-evolving interplay between human ingenuity and artificial intelligence, this case signifies not just a legal showdown but a pivotal milestone in our ongoing quest to harmonise the laws of innovation with the technologies of the future. As AI continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, our legal systems must be agile and responsive, ensuring that innovation remains the cornerstone of progress in the digital age.

    So, as we await the final chapter in this captivating legal odyssey, we do so with a shared understanding that the implications of the UK Supreme Court's decision will reverberate far beyond the courtroom. It will shape the destiny of patents, the role of AI, and the future of innovation, leaving an indelible mark on the ever-evolving landscape of AI and the law.


    Disclaimer: This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice for any specific case or cases and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed, or accepted by any member of Chambers or by Chambers as a whole.

    Tahir Khan
    Post by Tahir Khan
    November 30, 2023