SA first to award patent recognising artificial intelligence as inventor


Though Dabus will be named as the inventor according to section 27 of the SA Patents Act, the person who created the AI, in this case Dr Stephen Thaler, is the patent holder.

Section 27 reads: “An application for a patent in respect of an invention may be made by the inventor or by any person acquiring from him [the inventor] the right to apply”.

“Because Dr Thaler created Dabus, the AI listed as the inventor on the patent application, it is our view that the rights to apply for the patent automatically passed to him,” Van der Vyver said.

He said the law firm took on the matter because it had a patent team that specialised in AI and related technologies.

“We can expect inventions made by AI to become more commonplace — in drug discovery in particular, which means that patent laws across the world need to be evaluated for their suitability in protecting such inventions.

“Why would you build and run an inventive AI if you had no entitlement to the inventions it made? … Legislation … needs to be tested and, if necessary, adapted to account for the fact that we can now have non-human inventors.

“Filing this case in SA, and seeing whether it would go to grant, was an important step in that process. Hopefully the success in SA will provide other countries with some motivation to accept these applications too.”

Thaler said it was important for him to have the patent in Dabus’ name “because there was no [natural] person who qualifies as an inventor and without an inventor, [he] cannot receive a patent”.

“Dr Thaler could have professed to be the inventor of the invention, but that would have been wrong and, to put it bluntly, dishonest,” Van der Vyver added. 

Meanwhile, according to Abbott, Thaler has received commercial interest in the invention. 



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