Scientist renews bid to name artificial intelligence as U.S. patent holder

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Stephen Thaler has lost bids for AI patents in multiple countries
  • Asks federal appeals court to reconsider definition of 'individual'

(Reuters) - Computer scientist Stephen Thaler on Monday asked a U.S. appeals court for a new hearing in his lawsuit seeking recognition for his artificial-intelligence system DABUS as a patent inventor, arguing again that the system is an "individual" under federal law.

Thaler is challenging an August ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that the Patent Act does not allow patents for AI-created inventions because it interprets the term "individual" as relating to inventors to mean a "natural person."

"Merriam-Webster favors our definition of 'individual,'" Thaler told Reuters on Monday. Thaler's attorney Ryan Abbott of Brown Neri Smith & Khan said the Federal Circuit's decision "was not consistent with Supreme Court precedent or the language and purpose of the Patent Act."

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to comment.

Thaler used DABUS, short for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience, to create designs for a beverage holder and a light beacon. The PTO and a Virginia court rejected patent applications from Thaler seeking to credit DABUS as the inventor on the grounds that the system is not a human being.

Thaler challenged the decisions at the Federal Circuit, which hears patent appeals. Circuit Judge Leonard Stark wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel last month that "there is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings."

Stark said the Patent Act requires inventors to be "individuals," and that an "individual" is a human, citing the word's ordinary use and its context in the Patent Act.

Thaler requested a rehearing on Monday, either before a new panel or the full Federal Circuit. He argued the panel ignored dictionary definitions and U.S. Supreme Court precedent that says an "individual" is simply a singular entity and not necessarily a natural person.

Thaler also argued that disallowing AI-invented patents goes against the Patent Act's purpose to promote innovation.

"At minimum, the Panel Opinion should have wrestled with the ambiguity created by technological evolution, and the results that flow from prohibiting patents on AI-generated inventions," Thaler said.

Courts in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom have similarly rejected attempts by Thaler to name DABUS as a patent inventor. DABUS has received a patent in South Africa.

The case is Thaler v. Vidal, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 21-2347.

For Thaler: Ryan Abbott of Brown Neri Smith & Khan

For the PTO: Dennis Barghaan of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia

Read more:

U.S. appeals court says artificial intelligence can't be patent inventor

Artificial intelligence can be a patent 'inventor,' U.S. appeals court told

Case to Watch: Can AI be a patent inventor? Virginia judge asked to weigh in

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com