The Court of Appeal has ruled that an artificial intelligence machine cannot qualify as an “inventor” for the purposes of Sections 7 and 13 of the Patents Act because it is not a person. Further, in determining whether a person had the right to apply for a patent under Section 7(2)(b), there was no rule of law that new intangible property produced by existing tangible property was the property of the owner of the tangible property, and certainly no rule that property in an invention created by a machine was owned by the owner of the machine.
Background Facts and Law
This was an appeal by the owner of an artificial intelligence machine against a decision upholding the respondent Comptroller’s refusal of his patent applications in respect of inventions generated by the machine.The appellant had submitted two patent applications designating an artificial intelligence machine (DABUS), as the inventor. DABUS stands for “Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience”, an artificial neural system owned by Dr Thaler. The first invention was entitled “Food Container” and concerned the shape of parts of packaging for food. The second was entitled “Devices and Methods for Attracting Enhanced Attention”, and was a form of flashing light. On the face of it each disclosed a potentially patentable invention, that is to say patentable as defined by s1 of the 1977 Act. The appellant owned the machine, but had also created it and set it up to produce the inventions in issue. In response to the box requiring him to indicate how he had the right to be granted a patent, he wrote: “by ownership of the creativity machine ‘DABUS'”. The Intellectual Property Office indicated that the statement of inventorship form did not satisfy the Patents Act 1977 Pt I s.13(2), which required him to identify a person as the inventor (section 13 (2) (a) and to indicate how he had derived his right to be granted the patent (section 13(2) (b)). It therefore determined that the applications were deemed to be withdrawn. The applicant was still not entitled to apply for a patent simply by virtue of ownership of DABUS, because a satisfactory derivation of right had not been provided (as machine cannot pass on ownership). The High Court upheld that decision. First, it considered Section 7, which sets out the circumstances in which a person might right to apply and obtain a patent, and found that its natural meaning was that the inventor was a person. Second, it found that although the appellant could perhaps have claimed a right to be granted a patent as the inventor under Section 7(2)(a), he had not advanced such a case. Third, it found that an applicant’s subjective and honest belief that they were entitled to apply for a patent was insufficient to entitle them to the grant of a patent as that would render the provisions of s.7 otiose.
The following article comes from a student of IP law at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Although somewhat outside the range of subjects usually covered by UKHRB I feel it is sufficiently important to keep up to date with this difficult and fast moving area, as law tries to keep pace with technological developments in this field. So here we have John Butcher’s survey of the field.
Inventors come from many different disciplines and fields of study. Arguably one of the most important are biotechnicians whose inventions dramatically help to improve our standards of living. From healing the body of diseases to restoring the environment, biotechnology pervades all aspects of life.
While that sounds really nice, you might be wondering what exactly falls under biotechnology?
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology in the United Kingdom is the industry of organisms that manufacture commercial products. Interestingly, it can be quite controversial at times i.e. stem cells and gene cloning. Despite this, biotechnology is integral to advancements in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.
Currently, most industrial biotechnological expenditure in the UK is in the field of healthcare. Consequently, the UK is the leader in Europe in the development of biopharmaceuticals – by quite a lead.
Law creates artificial relationships between non-related people and entities. It even gives person-hood to non-biological beings such as companies and partnerships (although not yet to non-human species). Genetics describe the underlying relationship of all biological beings. For centuries, law and genetic science developed in parallel with very little overlap. But as genetic discoveries ride the crest of the technological revolution, law finds itself on the back foot. Legal instruments, such as property law and the law of obligations between non-related individuals were crafted in feudal times with the aim of protecting property beyond the death of the owner. With genetic discoveries, we face a myriad of questions, from ownership of gene editing techniques to the dangers of discrimination based on genetic predisposition for disease.
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another  EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read original judgment and  EWHC 2041 (Admin), 17 July 2015 read remedies judgment
On 19 June 2015, Green J ruled that an exception to copyright infringement for private use was unlawful, at common law, because of flaws in the consultation process which had preceded its enactment. See Rosalind English’s post here.
The judge left open for further argument what should be done about this unlawfulness.
The Secretary of State agreed that the offending statutory instrument should be quashed, and that he would re-consider whether a further private copying exception should be introduced.
But the parties disagreed about the date from when it should be quashed. Should it be prospective or retrospective? Or, in the Latin that lawyers still love, ex nunc (from now) or ex tunc (from then)? (Auto-correct so wanted those words to be “ex tune” – which would have been very appropriate, but wrong)
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