The AI Inventor Dilemma of Patent Law and the Call for Legal Adaptation



  • Patent offices globally resist recognizing AI as inventors due to the human-centric legal framework.
  • AI’s role in life sciences innovation intensifies the need to address AI inventorship in patents.
  • The call for legal adaptation grows louder as AI’s influence on invention becomes more prominent. 

In a world where artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly responsible for groundbreaking inventions, the question of whether AI can be recognized as the inventor in patent applications has become a pressing issue. While the concept of AI-generated inventions is not new, patent offices worldwide have been reluctant to register AI as the inventor. This refusal stems from the existing legal framework, which defines an inventor as a human being. However, as AI continues to reshape the landscape of innovation, the need for a legal solution is becoming more evident, especially in fields like life sciences.

AI: The inventor behind closed doors

Inventions driven by AI are becoming more prevalent, yet patent offices have consistently refused to attribute inventorship to AI entities. A notable figure in this ongoing debate is Stephen Thaler, the creator of the AI system known as DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience). DABUS itself holds patents and has generated inventions, some specifically designed to challenge the status quo regarding AI inventorship.

However, as of now, only South Africa has officially recognized AI as an inventor. In most other jurisdictions, including the European Patent Office (EPO) and the German Patent Office, AI is not considered a legitimate inventor.

The legal framework challenge

The primary obstacle to recognizing AI as an inventor lies in the existing legal framework, which defines an inventor as a human being. Neither the German Patent Act (GPA) nor the European Patent Convention (EPC) anticipated the possibility of a non-human inventor when they were drafted.

This reluctance to adapt the granting practice can be attributed to both conviction and tradition. While there are arguments that the legal framework does not explicitly mandate human inventors, the patent world, like many others, is slow to change. It brings to mind previous debates in patent law, such as the transition from absolute to relative novelty, that emerged when the US reformed its patent filing system in 2013.

Inventor’s honour and legal competence

Beyond tradition and conviction, there’s a critical aspect of inventorship related to personal rights and legal competence. Inventorship under the EPC and the GPA is not merely a title; it also grants rights like the ability to file a patent application or transfer those rights to a third party. These rights are contingent upon the inventor or entity being legally competent to bear them. AI lacks legislation conferring such competence, creating a legal void that complicates the recognition of AI as an inventor.

Life sciences at the crossroads

The impact of this debate extends far beyond the world of patents, particularly in the field of life sciences. AI’s role in analyzing vast amounts of data, including medical images, has become commonplace. Moreover, AI is now capable of autonomously generating novel concepts. In the life sciences, AI has been instrumental in drug discovery, drug design, and even drug repurposing, revolutionizing how new medicines are developed.

As AI-generated inventions become increasingly prevalent in the life sciences, the ongoing discussion on AI inventorship takes on a heightened relevance. The need to adapt patent law to accommodate AI’s evolving role in innovation has never been more critical.

The call for legal adaptation

While concerns about over-compensation for AI, as opposed to human inventors, persist, the legal field itself must not lag behind technological progress. The call for adaptation is clear – it is time for legislators to provide the appropriate legal framework to address the AI inventorship issue.

Future challenges and possibilities

As AI continues to drive innovation, the question of AI-generated inventions will likely surface in future infringement litigation. While patent disputes over computer-implemented inventions are not uncommon, those involving AI-generated inventions are on the horizon. However, before reaching the courtroom, the primary hurdle remains the ability to validly file these patents. Despite this, the debate over inventorship could evolve into a contentious issue in future infringement litigation, adding complexity to an already intricate legal landscape.

In conclusion, the intersection of AI and patent law presents a complex challenge that demands adaptation. As AI evolves and becomes an integral part of the innovation process, it is imperative for legal systems worldwide to address the issue of AI inventorship. The need for legislative action is clear, and as AI’s role in shaping the future of invention grows, it is only a matter of time before the legal framework catches up with technological progress.

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John Palmer

Written by John Palmer

John Palmer is an enthusiastic crypto writer with an interest in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and technical analysis. With a focus on daily market analysis, his research helps traders and investors alike. His particular interest in digital wallets and blockchain aids his audience.