In our previous article “DABUS – The rise of the inventive machines” which you can access here, we discuss South African DABUS patent no. 2021/03242 which has been touted as the first patent granted for an invention created by an artificial intelligence (AI) system, listing the AI as the inventor. This granted patent however stands alone, with patent offices and courts around the world rejecting corresponding patent applications. In our view, the DABUS patent should also have been rejected by the South African patent office (CIPC) in South Africa.

In the previous article, we discuss the situation at the European Patent Office, and in Australia and the United
Kingdom, which can be summarised as follows:

  • The European Board of Appeal held that the inventor cited in a patent application cannot be AI and must be a natural person.
  • In Australia, the High Court refused leave to appeal to a judgment of the Federal Court that an inventor must be a natural person.
  • In the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Court of Appeal held that as the law stands the inventor cited in a patent application cannot be AI.

In the United States (US), the District Court and the Federal Circuit held that the term “inventor” is limited to human beings in terms of the United States Patents Act. As a result, an AI cannot be named as an inventor in a US patent application. The Court of Appeals also affirmed the judgment of the District Court. On 10 January 2023, the Court of Appeals granted Thaler a 60-day extension to file a petition for certiorari (a request to order a lower court to send up the record of the case for review) at the Supreme Court of the United States.

On 17 March 2023, Thaler filed a petition for certiorari at the US Supreme Court. The petition was denied by the US Supreme Court on 24 April 2023. Thaler has reached the end of the road in the US, and it is now up to Congress to decide whether to change the law to allow for AI systems to be cited as an inventor in a US patent application.

As concluded in our previous article, as things stand, the current patent laws do not make provision for AI being recognised as an inventor, and for this to happen there will need to be a change in the patent laws.