Patents to protect innovation are applied for and owned only by their ‘human’ inventor, so what happens if a product is produced entirely and autonomously by a highly advanced computer? This question has been at the heart of a number of proceedings before patent offices around the world, including the EPO, as Volha Parfenchyk explains.
On 5 July 2022, the Legal Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) issued its long-awaited written decision in the “DABUS case” (J 8/20). This case revolved around the question of whether artificial intelligence (AI) can be designated an inventor in a patent application.
Artificial intelligence and patents: The rise of the computer ‘inventor’
In 2018, Stephen L Thaler filed two patent applications at the EPO, neither of which contained the name of an inventor. When the Receiving Section of the EPO requested an inventor designation, Thaler submitted the requested documents and indicated that DABUS, “a particular type of connectionist artificial intelligence” autonomously generated the invention and was, therefore, the inventor. Thaler, being the owner of the DABUS, was in turn “the successor in title”.
The EPO Receiving Section rejected both applications on the grounds that only a human person could be designated as inventor, as per the European Patent Convention (EPC). Similarly, it found that Thaler could not be designated as “the successor in title” because machines do not have rights and cannot transfer or assign them therefore. Thaler appealed the decision. Read more