US Supreme Court Declines to Hear Generative AI Patent Recognition Lawsuit
The U.S. Supreme Court has shut down an effort to allow generative AI models to file for patents after declining to consider a lawsuit filed by AI developer Stephen Thaler against the US Patent and Trademark Office. The high court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the USPTO can only grant patents to humans and Thaler’s AI model cannot legally be considered an independent inventor.
Thaler filed the suit after the USPTO rejected patents and prototypes of two devices he claims were entirely the work of a generative AI model named Dabus (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience). The patents were for a “fractal container” for hot drinks that mimics the design of a snail’s shell to make it easier for a robot to grab and stack, as well as a “neural flame” light that flashes at a frequency that humans find easy to see and hard to ignore, a useful tool in emergencies or to attract search-and-rescue teams. Dabus ‘invented’ both devices at Thaler’s neural network and AI tech firm Imagination Engines Inc. You can see a sketch of the flame on the left and the container on the right side of the image below.
Thaler had turned to the Supreme Court after a Virginia-based federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided with the USPTO and ruled that only humans can have patents and Dabus is not a person. He argued in his appeal that AI’s innovation in a wide variety of industries requires rethinking intellectual property. The existing system “curtails our patent system’s ability – and thwarts Congress’s intent – to optimally stimulate innovation and technological progress,” Thaler argued. Despite his U.S. loss, Thaler is pursuing the same patents internationally, succeeding in South Africa, and pending legal appeal in many other nations, including an appearance before the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court in March.
“We are disappointed by the decision, which we believe leaves a Federal Circuit precedent in place that will serve as a major disincentive to certain uses of AI in innovation,” Thaler’s lawyer and University of Surrey professor Ryan Abbott said in a statement. ” It is now up to Congress to decide whether to change the law to allow inventions to be protected regardless of how AI is used in the inventive process, and to help the US maintain its position as a world leader in innovation.”