Only Natural Persons Could Be Credited as the Inventor of a Patent- US Federal Court Rules

“Only natural persons could be credited as the inventor of a patent”- ruled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in April 2020 recently received the green flag from U.S. court. Over a global debate on handling computer-created inventions, a federal judge ruled that the Artificial Intelligence-based computer cannot be listed as an inventor on patents’ list under U.S. law.

As per the rulings of U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, an inventor must be an individual rather than a company or an A.I.- based system. As per the federal judge who decided the ruling in favor of USPTO, “A.I. systems cannot be granted patents and will not be recognized as inventors in the eyes of U.S. law.”

In 2019, Stephen Thaler, founder of Imagination Engines, applied for two patents-food containers based on fractal geometry and an emergency light beacon in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Instead of mentioning his name as patent holder, he said DABUS, a neural network built by him. As a result, USPTO rejected both the applications and advocated that only the “natural person” can be mentioned as the inventor.

Thaler challenged the decision and moved to U.S. Federal court. But Judge Leonie Brinkema sided with the patent office’s current director Drew Hirshfeld, ruling that the law states “individuals” must take an oath to swear they are the inventor on a patent application. These individuals must be natural persons, which computer software is not.

After hearing the court’s ruling, the agency was dissatisfied and started gathering views from a different range of companies. They wanted to clarify how to address A.I. both as an invention and potential inventor and seek advice on how to patent eligibility affects investment. Most of the companies concluded that artificial intelligence is not advanced to the point where it can be called an inventor, and no patent must be issued.

However, the patent got recognized at the Federal Court of Australia. Thaler advocated that “This means at present that patent protection is only available for these inventions outside the United States.” An A.I.-based machine uses the Machine Language to perform the steps that imitate the work of a human mind but with greater speed and accuracy. These machines have a broader scope to transform everything from the automobile industry to drug discovery.

As the Federal Court agreed with the ruling of USPTO, businesses owning A.I. systems must ensure that sufficient human involvement must be present in the invention process to maintain compliance with the patent approval process. Moreover, time will tell whether an AI can be an inventor or not. It might involve legislative actions to change a country’s jurisdictions and patent laws.


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