The world's first AI inventor has been rejected by British and European patent authorities


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  • The world’s first “AI inventor” has been denied recognition by patent authorities in the UK and Europe. 
  • A six-strong squad of international legal experts is battling for designs conceived by artificial intelligence to be recognised in law, and has filed patent applications on its behalf around the world. 
  • The UK Intellectual Property Office said it was “right [that changes to the law around AI-designed patents] be debated more widely”. 
  • The landmark case has highlighted growing anxieties among lawmakers about the role of machines in the creative process internationally.
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The world’s first artificially intelligent “inventor” has been rejected by British and European patent authorities, marking an historic moment in an ongoing debate around the role of creative machines. 

In July last year, an international squad of legal experts challenged patent authorities around the world to recognise the “inventorship” of artificial intelligence, arguing that the current regimes were outdated and do not protect machine’s creative output. 

The nine-strong group, led by University of Surrey professor Ryan Abbott, made headlines after submitting patents designed by an artificially intelligent machine with the US, UK and European authorities. They have since filed more applications in Germany, Israel, Taiwan and China. 

The team is battling for recognition of a particular AI inventor called Dabus. 

Dabus, created by Missouri-based AI expert Dr. Stephen Thaler, came up with two designs after being fed a wealth of information, including abstract concepts related to design, practicality, color and emotion. 

The first was a fractal beverage container, capable of changing its shape, making it easier for prosthetic or robot hands to grip. The second was a flickering lamp or “neural flame”, as the team dubbed it, which mimics brain activity in a way that could draw more attention from the human eye in an emergency situation. 

In a written response to the applications, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office said it would not recognise Dabus as an inventor because the machine was “not a person” – and therefore ineligible.

It added: “Inventions created by AI machines are likely to become more prevalent in the future and there is a legitimate question as to how or whether the patent system should handle such inventions…The present system does not cater for such inventions and it was never anticipated that it would. 

“But times have changed and technology has moved on. It is right that this is debated more widely and that any changes to the law be considered in the context of such a debate, and not shoehorned arbitrarily into existing legislation.” 

The European Patent Office also rejected Dabus’ work, saying it “[did] not meet the requirement… that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being, not a machine”. 

Business Insider approached Ryan Abbott, head of the Artificial Inventor Project, for comment. 

The UK IPO and EPO declined to comment further. 

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