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UK Supreme Court Says “AI is not an inventor”

The other day, I wrote about how artificial intelligence (AI) and copyright law are rapidly evolving and contentious spaces, only to be underscored by a recent landmark decision in the UK. This decision, while seemingly straightforward, sheds light on the complex and evolving relationship between AI innovations and traditional legal frameworks.

UK Supreme Court rules AI is not an inventor
It follows a similar decision in the US.

In a significant ruling, a U.S. computer scientist, Stephen Thaler, lost his bid to register patents for inventions created by his AI system, DABUS, in the UK. Thaler's attempt to acknowledge DABUS as the inventor was met with resistance from the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which insisted that an inventor must be a human or a company, not a machine. The UK's Supreme Court unanimously upheld this stance, emphasizing that under current patent law, "an inventor must be a natural person."

At first glance, this decision may appear to be a mere reinforcement of existing legal norms. However, its implications are far-reaching and signal a pressing need to reevaluate and potentially reshape our legal structures in the face of burgeoning AI technology.

Thaler's argument, though unconventional, touches on a fundamental question: As AI systems become increasingly sophisticated and capable of autonomous creativity, how should our legal systems adapt? Currently, UK patent law is ill-equipped to handle inventions generated autonomously by AI. This gap in the legal framework could have significant consequences for industries heavily reliant on AI for technological development.


It's crucial to understand that AI, in its current form, is a tool rather than an agent. The decision by the UK Supreme Court, while not immediately transformative, hints at the complexities we will face as AI systems continue to evolve. The ruling might not significantly impact the patent system today, but it's a precursor to the challenges we will inevitably encounter.

As we move forward, it's imperative to engage in a proactive discourse about the role of AI in innovation and its legal implications. The models and capabilities of AI are expanding rapidly, and our legal and ethical frameworks must evolve accordingly. The medium-term future will likely bring more such cases to the forefront, challenging our traditional notions of creativity, invention, and ownership.

Nonetheless, the Thaler case is not just about a rejected patent application; it's a harbinger of the intricate and uncharted territory at the intersection of AI and copyright law. As industry leaders, policymakers, and legal experts grapple with these emerging challenges, one thing is clear: the journey through this new frontier of AI and patent law is certainly ripe with opprotunity.