If an AI can invent a new idea, should it receive credit or its human overlord?
AI cannot be named on a patent as the inventor of a new idea or product, said the UK’s top court in a ruling that raises existential questions about our relationship with ever-more intelligent machines.
Handing down the judgment Lord Kitchin said: “We conclude that an ‘inventor’ must be a natural person. Only a person can devise an invention.”
The case was first heard back in 2018 by Imagination Engines founder Stephen Thaler, who sought patents naming his AI machine DABUS as the inventor. Thaler applied to various courts to have DABUS listed as the inventor of a food container that robots can easily grasp, and a flashing warning light designed to attract attention during emergencies.
Both the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) rejected the application, on the grounds that the inventor designated in the application had to be a human being — and not a machine. The decision has now been upheld by the UK supreme court, the first time a case of this nature has been heard in any country’s highest tribunal.