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US Patent and Trademark Office Denies Patents Filed on Behalf of AI DABUS

Saad Ullah



The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has Rejected Applications where an Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been listed as the inventor.


The USPTO, in its reply to the application filed by Stephen Thaler, the creator of DABUS, said that the application was denied as the inventor was mentioned to be a program. Stephan had filed two patents in which he had cited DABUS, his AI creation, as the inventor. The USPTO, in its explanation, said that inventors have to be a natural person, citing the USC 101,

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter… may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements…” and “the inventor who executes an oath or declaration must be a ‘person’.”

Thaler had filed two patents, one a warning light that has a unique flashing pattern that makes it very hard to ignore and another a specialized interlocking for food containers that would make it easy for robotic machines to grasp and move around in an automated environment.

DABUS is an AI, a self-learning program that was created by Imagination Engines, a company founded by Stephan that develops and researches into artificial neural programs that have the ability to learn. According to the company, DABUS is a “creativity machine” that mimics the neural workings of a human brain and is designed to create ideas from scratch, a “true artificial inventor.”

For USPTO, however smart the program is and no matter how close to a human brain thought replication it can come, DABUS and all other artificial intelligences are (for a lack of a better word), artificial.

Global Denial

Stephan’s run with USTPO is not the first of its kind. DABUS (or Stephen, depending on how philosophically you look at it) has attempted to file patents in other regions of the world and has always been denied. The UK Intellectual Property Office and the European Patent Office have already said no under the same legal issue of DABUS not being a natural person.

The Artificial Inventor Project, through which the patents have been filed, is a movement that has been seeking recognition of AI and other autonomous programs to be recognized for the effort they do to bring new ideas and innovations to the world. The project is though very clear, the aim is not to give ownership rights to an AI, but to have the efforts recognized in the form of the program being listed as an inventor.

No Patent Fears

The rejection of AI as inventors can have profound implications as more and more firms and researchers around the world are using AI to fuel their developments and projects. Take any powerful AI or computer, as an example. A whole team of programmers, developers and researchers will typically spend hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours developing an AI. The AI would then go on to learn and evolve, reaching to a point where, like DABUS, it would come up with a unique idea, innovation or solution. When it comes to getting it patent, who is listed as the inventor? The original programmers and developers have had no direct play in the AI’s field of research and it is the AI essentially that has learnt and came up with something new. You would not list your third grade teacher as the inventor just because he got you interested in science.

If this is the way the ball is going to role, one day, we will find that we cannot patent anything at all. What law will protect the intellectual property of an intelligence?

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