Federal Circuit Holds that Inventors for Artificial Intelligence-Based Technologies Must be Human Beings


In Thaler v. Vidal, No. 2021-2347 (Fed. Cir. 2022), the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding that the inventor of a patent must be a natural person.  Stephen Thaler originally filed two patent applications directed to software technology and named an artificial intelligence system (“AI System”) he developed as the inventor.  To address the requirement that an inventor submit an oath or declaration, Mr. Thaler submitted a statement on behalf of the AI System.  After being issued a notice that his application was incomplete for failing to name an inventor, Mr. Thaler unsuccessfully petitioned the USPTO for further review and then sought judicial review in District Court, where his request to reinstate his applications was also denied.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit determined that the AI System that Thaler listed as the inventor on his patent applications cannot be an inventor as required by the Patent Act as the AI System is not an “individual,” as required by the Patent Act, the plain meaning of the term being a “natural person.”  To account for the lack of a definition for “individual” in the Patent Act, the Federal Circuit looked to Supreme Court precedent along with dictionary sources to arrive at the conclusion that an individual is a “human being.”  Ultimately, the Federal Circuit found there is no ambiguity in the Patent Act requirement that an inventor listed on a patent application be a human being.