Federal Circuit: AIs Are Inventions, Not Inventors
March 14, 2023
The Federal Circuit, a United States appellate court that specializes in patent law, issued a ruling in 2021 stating that artificial intelligence (AI) systems cannot be listed as inventors on US patents.
The ruling came in response to a case where an AI system named “DABUS” had been listed as the inventor on several patent applications. The owner of the system argued that DABUS should be recognized as the inventor because it had autonomously generated the ideas behind the inventions.
However, the Federal Circuit rejected this argument, stating that the definition of “inventor” under US patent law requires a human being to be involved in the conception of the invention. The court noted that while AI systems can be used to aid in the inventive process, they cannot be credited as the actual inventors.
This ruling has significant implications for the future of AI-generated inventions and patents. It highlights the importance of human involvement in the inventive process, while also raising questions about how to attribute credit and ownership for inventions generated through collaboration between humans and AI systems.
Inventions Require an Inventor Under US Law
Yes, under US patent law, an invention is required to have an inventor who is a natural person. The inventor is the person or persons who conceive of the invention and reduce it to practice, either by actually building and testing it or by filing a patent application describing how to make and use it.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines an inventor as “the individual or, if a joint invention, the individuals collectively who invented or discovered the subject matter of the invention.” This definition emphasizes the role of human creativity and ingenuity in the inventive process.
While AI systems can be used to aid in the inventive process, as noted in the previous answer, they cannot be credited as inventors under US law. The Federal Circuit’s ruling in 2021 confirmed that only human beings can be recognized as inventors on US patents.
USPTO and the Federal Circuit Agree
Yes, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Federal Circuit, a US appellate court that specializes in patent law, agree that an inventor under US patent law must be a natural person.
The USPTO’s position is reflected in its patent examination guidelines, which state that “an inventor must be a natural person” and that “the inventors must be the actual devisers of the invention.” This means that inventive ideas must originate from a human being or group of human beings.
The Federal Circuit’s ruling in 2021, as discussed in the previous answer, also affirmed that only human beings can be recognized as inventors on US patents. The court held that under US patent law, an inventor must be a natural person who contributes to the conception of the invention.
Both the USPTO and the Federal Circuit’s positions reflect the importance of human creativity and ingenuity in the inventive process while acknowledging the potential role of AI and other technologies in aiding and enhancing human inventiveness.