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.
Last summer it was reported that patents had been filed in the USA and Europe listing an artificial intelligence system as the inventor. The patents in question were for a food container and a warning light and were filed by Stephen Thaler on behalf of DABUS (an AI system). Those applications have been considered, and on 22 April the US patent and trademark office (USPTO) reached the same verdict as the UK and European offices, denying the patents. In his application Thaler asserted that the inventions were generated by DABUS (which he dubs a "creativity machine"), and that the system was not created to solve any particular problem. He claims it was, therefore, the machine, not a person, that recognised the novelty of the invention.
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.
Filing a patent is the clerical equivalent of pulling teeth -- at least in the U.S. It first requires inventors to determine the type of intellectual property (IP) protection they require (i.e., utility, design, or plant). Then they're on the hook to conduct a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database search for similar inventions. If and only if the novelty of their idea passes muster are they allowed to proceed to the next step, which is preparing an application and fees. The system has motivated people like former aerospace engineer Dr. Stephen Thaler to turn to AI in pursuit of a better way. He, along with a team of legal experts and engineers, developed DABUS, a "creativity machine" that's able to generate ideas without human intervention.
Patents are used to grant exclusive property rights to an inventor and prevent their discovery from being copied by others. The main requirements for a patent are that the invention must be novel, non-obvious and be useful or have an industrial application. Patents are a central part of how pharma does business. Pharma products require longer and more complex research and development (R&D) cycles than products in other industries. Consequently, companies invest significant amounts of money into their new products early on in their development.