The application for two patents in Europe has been officially rejected by the European Patent Office (EPO). The reason? The inventor of the products was an AI and not a person.

For two totally different products (EP 18 275 174 and EP 18 275 163), a patent application was filed at the beginning of November 2018 (not only in Europe but also in the US and the UK) but the EPO rejected the application after a long period of reflection. Indeed, the invention was granted to DABUS, an AI created by Imagination Engines.

Old-fashioned regulation problematic

According to the requirements of the EPO (and also the UK Intellectual Property Office), a patent can only be approved if it is applied for by an individual, in order to avoid legal problems if a patent is approved in the name of a company or authority. For this reason, only a human patent application can be approved.

The team behind the patent application, led by Professor Ryan Abott of the University of Surrey, reasoned that a machine that can do exactly the same thing as a human being can also be seen as an inventor.

Talking to the BBC, Abott already argued in December that if AI was seen as a full-fledged possible inventor, the entire system of ownership and rights to certain patents would no longer apply. Instead, the professor suggested that the AI would be listed as the inventor, but the owner of the AI would have the patent rights.

This is a setback for the team, but it does mean that the EPO and the IPO now have to deal with the issue. The latter institution is of the opinion that the economic benefits of AI cannot be ignored and that it is up to them to meet the challenges they face.