Inventors in the UK must be human!

The UK Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the "DABUS" case on 20th December 2023.  The Court dismissed an appeal by Dr Thaler relating to two applications filed by Dr Thaler which identified an AI machine called DABUS as the inventor.

In its decision, the Court held that DABUS was not an inventor of any new product or process described in the patent applications. DABUS was not considered to be a person, let alone a natural person. Accordingly, it was not an “inventor” for the purposes of The 1977 Patents Act.

The question of whether Dr Thaler was nevertheless entitled to apply for and obtain a patent in respect of any technical advance made by DABUS and described in the patent applications was also considered.  The law was not found to give any person a right to obtain a patent for something generated autonomously by a machine, such as DABUS.  Also, someone was not entitled to claim that right purely on the basis of ownership of the machine.

This case represents an important milestone in the development of UK patent law around the "hot topic" of AI.  Patent protection is available in the UK and elsewhere for a wide variety of AI-based inventions and this will still be the case where humans use the power and capabilites of AI tools to develop new technology.