Mikele Bicolli
Apr 25, 2023

US Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in AI Inventorship Case

Patent Prosecution

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and its decisions have a significant impact on the country's legal system. Every year, the Court receives thousands of petitions asking it to review lower court decisions, but it only agrees to hear a small fraction of these cases.

The US Supreme Court has declined to review Thaler v. Vidal, a case in which Stephen Thaler contested the decision of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reject patents for inventions developed by his artificial intelligence (AI) system. Thaler's DABUS system created prototypes for an emergency light beacon and a beverage holder on its own, but the USPTO and a federal judge in Virginia denied his patent applications, citing DABUS's non-human status. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld these decisions, stating that only human inventors could be granted patents. Thaler maintains that AI-generated patents are critical for fostering innovation and technological progress in fields such as energy and medicine. Supporters of Thaler's cause, including Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig and other academics, contend that the Federal Circuit's ruling puts billions of dollars of current and future investment at risk, threatens US competitiveness, and produces a result that is contrary to the plain language of the Patent Act. Thaler has also challenged the US Copyright Office's refusal to grant copyright protection for art produced by his AI. Had Thaler's case been heard by the Supreme Court, it could have established a legal precedent regarding AI inventorship. However, the court's decision means that Congress must now decide whether to amend existing laws to safeguard inventions, regardless of the AI's role in the creative process.

The denial of certiorari by the US Supreme Court in the case of Thaler v. Vidal has left the issue of AI inventorship and patentability unresolved. However, it is clear that the current legal framework for patent law does not address the complex issues surrounding AI-generated inventions. The debate on this issue is ongoing, and the decision by the US Supreme Court to deny certiorari in Thaler v. Vidal puts the spotlight on Congress to take action to clarify the law on this matter.

Possible directions for change in patent law include revising the definition of inventorship to allow for AI-generated inventions and granting patent rights to the owners of AI systems. Additionally, Congress could create a separate category of patents for AI-generated inventions or establish a regulatory body to oversee the patenting of AI-generated inventions. As AI technology continues to advance and play a larger role in innovation, the need for clear and effective regulation in this area becomes increasingly urgent.