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UK High Court Denies DABUS Inventorship

On December 20, 2023, the UK High Court dismissed the appeal of Dr Thaler, who claimed to be entitled to apply for and obtain patents for inventions allegedly made by a machine called DABUS. The Court upheld the decisions of the lower courts and the Comptroller that DABUS was not an inventor within the meaning of the Patents Act of 1977 (the Patents Act), and that Dr Thaler had failed to comply with the requirements of section 13 of the Patents Act, which resulted in the applications being deemed withdrawn. 

The Court rejected Dr. Thaler's arguments that the Patents Act recognised that there was property in an invention as such at the time the invention was made, and that he derived title to the inventions by virtue of his ownership of DABUS and the doctrine of accession. The Court held that the Patents Act provided a complete code for determining who was entitled to apply for and obtain a patent, and that such a person had to be a natural person who devised the invention or someone claiming through the inventor by operation of law, contract or succession - cutting short Thaler's argument and resulting in a denial of the application. The Court emphasised that the inventor was the natural person who came up with the inventive concept, and that a machine was not a person at all, let alone a natural person, and thus could not generate an “inventive concept” as understood under the Patents Act.

The Court also held that Dr Thaler did not satisfy the requirements of section 13 of the Patents Act, which obliged the applicant to identify the person or persons whom he believed to be the inventor or inventors, and to indicate the derivation of his right to be granted the patent. The Court found that Dr Thaler did not identify any person or persons as the inventor or inventors, but rather asserted that DABUS was the inventor, which was legally impossible. The Court also found that Dr Thaler did not indicate any proper basis for his right to be granted the patent, but simply relied on his ownership of DABUS, which was not sufficient. The Court noted that the failure to comply with section 13(2) had the prescribed consequence of the applications being taken to be withdrawn, and that this was not an additional requirement for patentability or a new ground for refusal.

The words of the subsection are clear: any person may make an application for a patent.