After having officially affixed its signature on patents in South Africa and Australia, the artificial intelligence DABUS has just been rejected by an American court. The United States won’t see patent machines flourish anytime soon.
Last August, South Africa and Australia chose to recognize the authorship of an invention to a certain DABUS; a somewhat peculiar inventor since it is an artificial intelligence. A great first which could well give ideas to many other countries to the point of emulating… but not in the United States.
At least not immediately. This was recently confirmed by a court, confirming a decision taken by the US patent office last April; with Uncle Sam, the privilege of invention will therefore remain the prerogative of humans for some time to come.
The verdict thus rendered by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is based on the US Patent Act. This convention, which governs intellectual property across the Atlantic, clearly specifies that an inventor must be a “individual”. The term clearly refers to a human flesh and blood in the context of the document; under current legislation, DABUS cannot therefore be officially recognized as an inventor. He will therefore have to leave the authorship of his inventions to his own inventor, the AI researcher Steven Thaler. At least, on condition that he wishes to file these patents on his behalf.
A potentially slippery slope
This reluctance is nevertheless understandable, because it is a decision potentially fraught with consequences. While it is still certainly too early to consider all the possible branches of such legislation, it would indeed be desirable to have a better overview of all the satellite issues that revolve around this debate. Until then, it is certainly safer to side with theEuropean Patent Office. The institution estimated in 2019 that DABUS was neither more nor less than a “tool used by a human inventor.”
The US administration, however, is not completely closing the door. “There might come a time when artificial intelligence will reach a level of sophistication that fits the generally accepted definition of an inventor.”, Justifies the judge Leonie Brinkema, quoted by The Verge. But the commission believes that the concept is not yet mature enough to be part of the law at present. “That moment has not yet arrived, and if it ever does come, it will be up to Congress to decide whether and how it wishes to extend the reach of patent law.”.
It is therefore a serious stop for theArtificial Inventor Project, an association that advocates for inventors based on AI. She was probably hoping that the United States would step into the breach created by Australia and South Africa. Following this decision, it may take many years to wait for the issue to come back to the table. Knowing the position of the United States in the AI market, it could have created a call for air, and rally other countries to the cause. It will nevertheless be interesting to observe whether other countries take the opposite view of this decision, and follow in the footsteps of the two pioneering countries in this area.