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Challenge to recognise world's first AI inventor heads for High Court battle


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  • Campaigners have challenged British and European patent authorities over their rejection of the world's first "AI inventor". 
  • The nine-strong squad of international legal experts is battling for designs conceived by artificial intelligence to be recognised in law, and has filed patents on its behalf around the world. 
  • UK officials withdrew the applications – but admitted it was "right [that changes to the law] be debated more widely". 
  • The landmark case has highlighted growing anxieties among lawmakers about the role of machines in the creative process internationally. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The decision by UK and European authorities to reject the world's first "AI inventor" is being challenged in court.

On Friday, Business Insider revealed the world's first artificially intelligent "inventor"had been rejected by British and European patent authorities, marking an historic moment in the debate around creative machines.

Now the Artificial Inventor Project has filed legal challenges with the UK's High Court and the European Patent Agency's boards of appeal.

In July last year, the international squad of legal experts challenged bodies in the UK, EU and US to recognise the "inventorship" of an AI called Dabus, arguing that current regimes were outdated and failing to protect machines' creative output. The team has since filed further applications in Germany, Israel, Taiwan and China.

Ryan Abbott, head of the project and a professor of law at the University of Surrey, told Business Insider he was "not surprised" by either decision.

"We anticipated this project would require judicial involvement," he said. "The patentability of AI-generated inventions is a novel issue of law in every jurisdiction, and whether patent offices allow protection for such inventions is a matter of significant importance to innovation."

Professor Abbott and his team are fighting for patents on two inventions by Dabus.

The first: a fractal beverage container, capable of changing its shape, making it easier for prosthetic or robot hands to grip. The second: a flickering lamp or "neural flame", as the team dubbed it, which mimics brain activity in a way that could draw more attention from the human eye in an emergency situation.

In a written response seen by Business Insider, the UK's Intellectual Property Office rejected Dabus as an inventor because it was "not a person" and therefore ineligible.

It added: "Inventions created by AI machines are likely to become more prevalent in the future and there is a legitimate question as to how or whether the patent system should handle such inventions...The present system does not cater for such inventions and it was never anticipated that it would. 

"But times have changed and technology has moved on. It is right that this is debated more widely and that any changes to the law be considered in the context of such a debate, and not shoehorned arbitrarily into existing legislation." 

The European Patent Office also rejected Dabus' work, saying it "[did] not meet the requirement... that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being, not a machine". 

Simon Davies, chair of Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys' committee on computer and technologies, said it was "not a surprise" the UK IPO refused to recognise Dabus under existing legislation. 

He added: "It is possible the courts could construe an 'inventor' to include an AI system, but this would be a departure from the original understanding of the legislation. It would require a lot of goodwill and elasticity from the courts." 

The UK IPO and EPO were approached for further comment. 

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