Lady Gaga sings'I'm on the edge of glory and I'm hanging on a moment of truth'. Until now, the longstanding crusade to allow inventions generated by the AI machine DABUS to be patentable under existing national patent laws across different jurisdictions had not had much success. Lawyers with the "Artificial Inventor Project" had filed patent applications around the world for DABUS' 'inventions' but received a steady stream of rejections from national IP offices and courts (for instance see our Lens posts on refusals by the UKIPO, UK High Court, EPO and USPTO). Surprisingly, DABUS has had better results in recent weeks in respect of its South African and Australian applications. Is this the edge of glory?
The question whether an artificial intelligence ("AI") system can be named as an inventor in a patent application has obvious implications for the life science community, where AI's presence is now well established and growing. For example, AI is currently used to predict biological targets of prospective drug molecules, identify candidates for drug design, decode genetic material of viruses in the context of vaccine development, determine three-dimensional structures of proteins, including their folding form, and many more potential therapeutic applications. In a landmark decision issued on July 30, 2021, an Australian court declared that an AI system called DABUS can be legally recognized as an inventor on a patent application. It came just days after the Intellectual Property Commission of South Africa granted a patent recognizing DABUS as an inventor. These decisions, as well as at least one other pending case in the U.S. concerning similar issues, have generated excitement and debate in the life sciences community about AI-conceived inventions.
In this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, advances in artificial intelligence ("AI") has resulted in AI capable of generating inventions that are novel and inventive. The question becomes whether these AI generated inventions can be protected under the current patent law framework. A recent development in Australian jurisprudence takes a step toward clarifying the applicability of patent law on AI generated inventions. The Federal Court of Australia recently held in Thaler v Commissioner of Patents  FC 879 ("the Thaler case") that an AI system can be named as an inventor in a patent application. After a brief introduction on basic concepts underlying patent law and AI, this article will discuss the Thaler case followed by an analysis on the Malaysian perspective.
What does it mean to be an inventor? In patent law, designed to protect the intellectual property of inventors, officials are used to thinking of inventors as humans, taking an "inventive step" – a new way of doing something -- not obvious to a person skilled in the same art. But last week -- in a judicial world first -- Australia's Federal Court ruled an artificial intelligence (AI) system can be named as an inventor. That judgement overturned a decision by the nation's Commissioner of Patents that meant US scientist Stephen Thaler could not patent inventions by his AI system, DABUS (Device for Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience). Thaler says DABUS independently designed a fractal-shaped container for improved grip and heat transfer, and an emergency beacon that flashes more noticeably.
In a landmark decision, an Australian court has set a groundbreaking precedent, deciding artificial intelligence (AI) systems can be legally recognised as an inventor in patent applications. That might not sound like a big deal, but it challenges a fundamental assumption in the law: that only human beings can be inventors. The AI machine called DABUS is an "artificial neural system" and its designs have set off a string of debates and court battles across the globe. On Friday, Australia's Federal Court made the historic finding that "the inventor can be non-human". It came just days after South Africa became the first country to defy the status quo and award a patent recognising DABUS as an inventor. AI pioneer and creator of DABUS, Stephen Thaler, and his legal team have been waging a ferocious global campaign to have DABUS recognised as an inventor for more than two years.