Constituting a world first in a field that has traditionally been hostile to an “artificially intelligent” inventor, South Africa’s patent office granted a patent in July 2021 to an invention created by an AI system.


DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience)

DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience), the AI that “designed the invention”, is the creation of Stephen Thaler, CEO of US-based Imagination Engines. Thaler created the source code for DABUS, which he named as the “inventor” of the product in patent applications filed around the world while naming himself as “applicant” and thus patentee.




Search and examination system (SSE)


Spoor&Fisherの弁理士、 デビッドギルソン、説明:「南アフリカでは、当社の特許法には発明者の定義が含まれておらず、実質的な審査は必要ありません。正式な要件が満たされている限り、特許を付与することができます。」

He goes on to ask: “How, in the case of DABUS, did Thaler obtain the right to apply for the patent from a machine? Unresolved difficulties of this nature could result in the patent being contested in the future. It is a requirement of South African patent law that if the applicant for a patent is not the inventor, the applicant must provide proof of his/her right to apply in lieu of the inventor. As DABUS had been cited as inventor, how should the machine “decide” to assign its (apparent) rights to its creator – and furthermore, how could this possibly be effected in reality?”

Those in favour of granting patents to AI systems assert that this will encourage technology innovation and investment in AI systems, prevent the mis-crediting of human beings, and notify the public who – or indeed, what – the actual creators of an invention are.

Legislation requiring the inventor to be a natural person


Then, in September 2021, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that, under the US Patent Act, the AI computer cannot be recognised as an inventor. It concluded that the “clear answer is no” to designating an AI system as an inventor on a patent application “based on the simple legislative text of the Patent Act and Federal Circuit Authority”.


DABUSが南アフリカで最初の特許を取得した直後、オーストラリア連邦裁判所のJonathan Beach判事も、非人間を特許の発明者として特定できると判断し、Thalerに有利な判決を下しました。 1990年のオーストラリアの特許法は発明者を定義しておらず、同法の特定の規定はAIシステムが発明者と見なされることを明示的に否定していません。ビーチはさらに、そのような構造は発明を促進することである特許法の目標と両立するだろうと述べた。

But the question remains: Can the DABUS application withstand legal examination? And are South Africa’s IP laws keeping up with technology innovation? Gilson warns: “This patent award should serve as a wake-up call to governments around the world to accelerate the process of modernising and harmonising intellectual property laws, regulations, and practices in general.”