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Only humans can hold patents, and not AI: US Patent Office says

Technology / news
Only humans can hold patents, and not AI: US Patent Office says
DALL-E 3 generated image of an inventor applying for a patent
DALL-E 3 generated image of an inventor applying for a patent

With generative artificial intelligence use becoming increasingly common, the world is hammering out how to apply intellectual property rights in the context of the new technology.

The latest ruling in the field is from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The government agency has now made it clear only humans can be recognised as inventors in patent applications.

AI cannot be inventors, the USPTO said. Using an AI on the other hand could mean the invention in question is patentable, but a human would have had to contribute significantly to whatever is being created.

Simply overseeing an AI generating an invention isn't enough for a patent application to succeed.

The trademark guidance is similar to copyrighting AI generated work. In March last year, the United States Copyright Office issued a statement of policy document, to clarify how it examines and registers work created by AI.

The USCO made it clear that human creativity is required for works to be granted copyright protection.

"In the Office's view, it is well-established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity. Most fundamentally, the term “author,” which is used in both the Constitution and the Copyright Act, excludes non-humans."

This would seem to exclude AI generated works, since it's the technology that determines the output, and not a human.

That view does not, however, exclude protection being extended to works for which humans have creatively used AI, the USCO noted.

"This policy does not mean that technological tools cannot be part of the creative process. Authors have long used such tools to create their works or to recast, transform, or adapt their expressive authorship. For example, a visual artist who uses Adobe Photoshop to edit an image remains the author of the modified image, and a musical artist may use effects such as guitar pedals when creating a sound recording."

For both patent applications and copyright protection, the use of AI must be disclosed, the agencies said.

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