A single judge of the Federal Court of Australia, Justice Beech, has overruled the Commissioner of Patents and decided that a computer program (an artificial intelligence system) can be an "inventor" for the purposes of the Australian Patents Act in respect of a PCT patent application.
In summary, the judge found:
- An AI system is not a legal person.
- An AI system cannot own a patent.
- An AI system cannot assign a patent.
- But an AI system can be an inventor of an invention that is the subject of a patent application.
- Ownership of the invention goes to a legal person -- in this case, the person who owned the copyright in the AI system and operated the AI system.
Justice Beech said:
"167 Dr Thaler is the owner, programmer and operator of DABUS, the artificial intelligence system that made the invention; in that sense the invention was made for him. On established principles of property law, he is the owner of the invention. In that respect, the ownership of the work of the artificial intelligence system is analogous to ownership of the progeny of animals or the treatment of fruit or crops produced by the labour and expense of the occupier of the land (fructus industrialis), which are treated as chattels with separate existence to the land. ...
189 In my view, Dr Thaler, as the owner and controller of DABUS, would own any inventions made by DABUS, when they came into his possession. In this case, Dr Thaler apparently obtained possession of the invention through and from DABUS. And as a consequence of his possession of the invention, combined with his ownership and control of DABUS, he prima facie obtained title to the invention. By deriving possession of the invention from DABUS, Dr Thaler prima facie derived
title. In this respect, title can be derived from the inventor
notwithstanding that it vests ab initio other than in the inventor.
That is, there is no need for the inventor ever to have owned the
invention, and there is no need for title to be derived by an
194 Now more generally there are various possibilities for patent ownership of the output of an artificial intelligence system. First, one might have the software programmer or developer of the artificial intelligence system, who no doubt may directly or via an employer own copyright in the program in any event. Second, one might have the person who selected and provided the input data or training data for and trained the artificial intelligence system. Indeed, the person who provided the input data may be different from the trainer. Third, one might have the owner of the artificial intelligence system who invested, and potentially may have lost, their capital to produce the output. Fourth, one might have the operator of the artificial intelligence system. But in the present case it would seem that Dr Thaler is the owner."
In short, title to the invention derives from an inventor who does not own the invention.
This case is not particularly helpful in determining who is the owner of the invention if there is more than one person involved -- for example, if Microsoft owns the copyright in the AI program running in the cloud, 20 people collect the training and input data over many years, I design the problem, and you and a team of people operate the AI system.
Does this case also mean that a corporation or a monkey could be an inventor?
The Patents Act requires that the inventor's name and address be provided to the Patents Office. Does an AI system have a legal name or an address? The case did not consider this. Dr Thaler named his AI system as DABUS, so I guess that is the name of the inventor. It is not really a name in the legal sense.
The judge spent little time considering the basis of the patent system - to incentivize people to make inventions. A computer does not need an incentive. The judgment briefly mentions this, and appears to suggest that creating an incentive to create an AI machine that invents is sufficient. On that basis, patent patent system should reward parents for having sex to create a child and teaching the child to invent.
The judgment is artificial and shows little real intelligence.
And see about this South African patent: https://www.cyberspac.com/2021/08/ai-machine-can-be-inventor-says.html Did it go through a full examination?