The US federal circuit court has confirmed that AI systems cannot patent inventions because they are not human beings.
In 2019, Thaler failed to copyright an image on behalf of an AI system he dubbed Creativity Machine, with that decision
Writing in the court’s opinion, judge Leonard P. Stark notes that, at first glance, one might think that resolving this case would require “an abstract inquiry into the nature of invention or the rights, if any, of AI systems.” However, says Stark, such “metaphysical matters” can be avoided by simply analyzing the language of the relevant statue: the Patent Act.
The Patent Act clearly states that only human beings can hold patents, says Stark. The Act refers to patent-holders as “individuals,” a term which the Supreme Court has ruled “ordinarily means a human being, a person” (following “how we use the word in everyday parlance”); and uses personal pronouns — “herself” and “himself” — throughout, rather than terms such as “itself,” which Stark says “would permit non-human inventors” in a reading.
“Statutes are often open to multiple reasonable readings. Not so here,” writes Stark. “This is a case in which the question of statutory interpretation begins and ends with the plain meaning of the text … [T]here is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings. “
The ruling confirms the status quo for AI patent law in the US, and shores up what is slowly consolidating as international legal opinion. Both the
Abbott told the publication: “It ignores the purpose of the Patent Act and the outcome that AI-generated inventions are now unpatentable in the United States. That is an outcome with real negative social consequences.”