The UK Supreme Court has upheld prior decisions, dismissing a bid to recognise an artificial intelligence (AI) named Dabus as an inventor in a patent application. Technologist Dr. Stephen Thaler, who considers Dabus a “conscious and sentient form of machine intelligence,” sought patent rights for the AI’s inventions—a food container and a flashing light beacon. However, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) had previously rejected this, stating that only a “person” could be acknowledged as an inventor, a stance supported by both the High Court and Court of Appeal.
While the Supreme Court judges did not address whether Dabus actually invented the items, they firmly asserted that “an inventor must be a person,” preventing an AI from being named as an inventor for patent rights.
Dr. Thaler expressed disappointment, highlighting the ongoing tension between humans and machine intelligence. The IPO welcomed the decision, emphasising the importance of the UK patent system supporting AI innovation and usage in the country.
The ruling does not rule out the possibility of a person using AI to devise an invention. In such cases, a patent can be pursued, provided the person is identified as the inventor. Experts suggest that a different decision could have caused complications for companies using AI to innovate, potentially challenging the ownership of patents.
The case raises broader policy questions about evolving laws as AI capabilities advance. Legal experts anticipate growing pressure for changes to existing laws, especially as AIs become more proficient at autonomously generating novel ideas. The IPO acknowledges legitimate questions about how the patent system and intellectual property should handle AI creations, emphasising the need for potential future changes at an international level.
While the UK government’s response in June 2022 concluded that there should be no immediate legal changes to UK patent law, the Supreme Court’s decision adds to the ongoing conversation about the role of AI in intellectual property rights.