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What Is a Natural Person for Purposes of Patentability?

  • Jul 16 2020

A recent decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is making clear who can – and cannot – file for a patent; it may not be quite who you think. 

While we all have the right to apply for a U.S. patent, Mr. Dabus was outright denied for who he is – or rather, who he’s not. The USPTO even declined to examine the patent because of his identity.  So who is this mysterious Mr. Dabus? Well, DABUS as he’s referred to, is not actually human; it is an artificial intelligence (AI) system. 

AI Systems Barred as Patent Inventors

So if DABUS invented something, why can’t DABUS be listed as the inventor? Well, according to the law, AI systems are barred from legally inventing things because only “natural persons” can be listed as inventors on patents. 

As we continue incorporating more AI technology into our everyday lives, it begs the question as to how this ruling will impact us regarding the many AI-driven inventions that are undoubtedly to come. As society continues to merge the human brain with AI, how will we be able to move forward and what exactly is a “natural person?”

What is a “Natural Person?”

Although there have been AI machines deemed as legal “citizens,” such machines would likely not be considered natural persons. This is because natural persons are considered different from legal persons in that they are living human beings rather than legal persons, such as corporations and other entities. In other words, in order to be listed as an inventor on a patent, you must be a biological human being. 

Future Implications

So what might this mean for the not-so-distant future? This decision may have many implications that the USPTO failed to consider. As an example, if there are 50 engineers at a large corporation using an AI device to capture, organize, and then enhance their thoughts and come up with a new invention. Even if the machine generated the novel invention based upon the engineers’ thoughts it would still not qualify to be listed as an inventor. And if a human being must be listed, which of the 50 engineers should be chosen?

You can see how this decision may hinder the process of technological advancement.  For this reason, it’s probable that advocates of AI will lobby Congress in an effort to change the laws. But how exactly they may change has yet to be seen. 

Scully, Scott, Murphy & Presser Can Help Protect Your Inventions and Your Rights

If you or a loved one has an issue with product or procedure that you wish to have protected, or if you have an existing patent that you believe is being infringed upon, it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced patent attorney in order to determine your best options. 

At Scully, Scott, Murphy & Presser, our qualified patent attorneys can help you to navigate the patent application process or can help to defend your patent and your rights regarding any infringement. To learn more about the patent prosecution process or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Patents

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