Who are the inventors of patents? Since George Washington signed the first patent in 1790, the United States has issued patents to people of various ages, ethnicities, and genders, with some patent inventors being as young as two when they filed. The varied backgrounds of these inventors stems from the United States Patent and Trademark Office's ("USPTO") broad definition of an inventor, laying out an inventor to "mean the individual or, if a joint invention, the individuals collectively who invented or discovered the subject matter the invention." But what happens when the inventor is a machine? This is the exact issue Dr. Stephen Thaler sought to resolve with the USPTO as well as other worldwide patent offices.
Section 101 states "[w]hoever invents or discovers…may obtain a patent therefore…" According to 35 U.S.C. § 100, an inventor is defined as an individual or individuals. As technology has advanced and the possibility that AI would invent something became a probability, the question has arisen whether AI can be an inventor under United States law.
Most of us know that DATA, the beloved android from Star Trek, The Next Generation, is an artificial intelligence (AI) life form from the distant future with a high capacity to problem solve and innovate. But, if DATA were present today and invented a new technology, could he be an inventor on a patent for his invention? The question of whether AI can legally be an inventor on a patent was recently addressed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). The same question is still being evaluated by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) along with solicitation for comments to the patent community. A group from the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom (UK), recently challenged the definition of "inventor" in Europe and the United States by filing two separate patent applications designating an AI entity as an inventor.
There is an interesting appeal listed to be heard in the Patents Court in July. Professor Ryan Abbott of Surrey University wants the patent system to acknowledge machines are inventors. As part of the Artificial Inventor Project, he is seeking patents for inventions made by DABUS (pronounced'DA-BUS'). DABUS, a'creativity machine', is a series of neural networks and was created and is owned by Dr Stephen Thaler. DABUS can be provided information on a particular topic in order to independently create inventions.
A collaborative research team claims their artificially intelligent system should be recognized as the rightful inventor of two innovative designs, in a potentially disruptive development in patent law. Patent law is complicated even at the best of times, but a new project led by researchers from the University of Surrey could make it more convoluted still. Called the Artificial Inventor Project, the initiative is "seeking intellectual property rights for the autonomous output of artificial intelligence." As BBC reports, the researchers are claiming that an artificially intelligent system named DABUS is the rightful inventor of two designs, namely a complex, fractal-like system of interlocking food containers and a rhythmic warning light for attracting extra attention. To that end, the researchers are filing patents on behalf of DABUS with the respective patent bodies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.