DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience), created by Dr. Stephen L. Thaler, uses AI to create and generate novel ideas and inventions. Recently, Dr. Thaler submitted an application for a patent and listed DABUS as the sole inventor with the given name “DABUS”, and the family name “Invention generated by artificial intelligence”. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) objected to this on the basis that the patent application did not “identify each inventor by his or her legal name”. Dr. Thaler petitioned the USPTO’s objection.
In their decision, the USPTO rejected Dr. Thaler’s petition. Citing the definition of ‘inventor’ (35 U.S. Code § 100(a)), the language of Title 35 of the United States Code, and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, the USPTO concluded that the term ‘inventor’ should be restricted to natural persons. The USPTO further buttressed their conclusion with precedent from the Federal Circuit stating that inventors must ‘conceive’ of their invention, which can only be done by a natural person.
The USPTO’s decision has notable ramifications to patent law in the field of artificial intelligence. It also tests the limits of patent law in the United States, addressing fundamental concepts that are normally never in dispute in a patent application, such as who and what can be an ‘inventor’. Other countries, including Canada, may potentially find the decision persuasive if a similar issue is raised in their jurisdiction.