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Computational Chemistry

Patent inventors must be human, a US federal court rules

by Jyllian Kemsley
August 14, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 28


Illustration of binary code and circuits in the form of a human head.
Credit: Shutterstock

Under the US Patent Act, inventors must be “a natural person,” a federal court ruled on Aug. 5. The case originated when the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied patent applications in which physicist and Imagination Engines CEO Stephen Thaler listed an artificial intelligence system as the sole inventor. Thaler unsuccessfully sought to have the denial overturned through USPTO procedures. He then sued the office in federal court and lost, and he appealed that decision. In the latest ruling, Judge Leonard P. Stark of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit writes, “The Patent Act expressly provides that inventors are ‘individuals.’ ” Stark adds, “The Supreme Court has held that, when used in statutes, the word ‘individual’ refers to human beings unless there is ‘some indication Congress intended’ a different reading.” Thaler is also suing the US Copyright Office for denying his registration applications that listed AI as the author and himself as the copyright owner.


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