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Federal Judge Rules That AI Is Not a ‘Person’ and Cannot Be an Inventor in the U.S.

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A big debate occurring in the patent community revolves around whether a patent application can name artificial intelligence (AI) as an inventor. This reached such a level that the USPTO requested comments on the topic, as we covered here before.

Last week a federal judge came down firmly with a resounding NO.

Researcher Stephen Thaler sued the USPTO for rejecting applications he filed that listed an AI machine he created as an inventor. Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia said that only a “natural person” can be an inventor. Judge Brinkema relied on US Patent Act language that refers to inventors as an “individual,” and Federal court decisions defining an “individual” as a “natural person.”

Thaler has had applications listing the AI, nicknamed DABUS, rejected in the UK and Europe. South Africa and Australia have granted patents, but the Australia IP office has appealed. Thaler intends to appeal Judge Brinkema’s ruling in the U.S. So, stay tuned!

The case is Thaler v. Hirshfeld et al., case number 1:20-cv-00903, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.