U.S. scientist hits another dead end in patent case over AI 'inventor'

Illustration picture of semiconductor chips on a circuit board
Semiconductor chips are seen on a circuit board of a computer in this illustration picture taken February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo
  • Stephen Thaler argues his artificial intelligence system should be considered an inventor
  • Computer scientist's attorney says he will take case to Supreme Court

(Reuters) - A U.S. computer scientist on Thursday lost his latest bid to have an artificial intelligence program he created be named "inventor" on a pair of patents he is seeking to obtain.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a request for a rehearing in the case brought by plaintiff Stephen Thaler, whose lawyer said he would now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thaler had argued that his AI system, called DABUS, should be considered an "individual" that can legally be named as an inventor. The court ruled in August that an inventor must be a natural person.

The Federal Circuit rejected Thaler's rehearing petition Thursday without comment. Thaler's attorney Ryan Abbott of Brown Neri Smith & Khan told Reuters in an email that they will now petition the Supreme Court to take up the case.

"We believe our interpretation is the most consistent with the Patent Act, and that it is the interpretation that promotes innovation," Abbott said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to comment on the ruling.

Thaler said his DABUS system, short for Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience, generated prototypes for a novel beverage holder and light beacon without any input from him. The PTO and a Virginia federal court rejected patent applications for the inventions on the grounds that DABUS is not a person.

Thaler challenged the decisions at the Federal Circuit, which hears patent appeals. Circuit Judge Leonard Stark wrote for a three-judge panel in August that the Patent Act unambiguously requires inventors to be human beings.

In his request for a rehearing, Thaler said the decision contradicted Supreme Court precedent and dictionary definitions of "individual." He also said the Federal Circuit should have at least "wrestled with the ambiguity created by technological evolution" and "the results that flow from prohibiting patents on AI-generated inventions."

Thaler has undertaken a global effort to win DABUS patents. He has lost other bids for patents naming DABUS as their inventor in the European Union and Australia.

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:

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

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney. Contact: 12029385713