April 27, 2022

DABUS has crashed – no natural person found on board


DABUS is an alleged artificial intelligence and the Artificial Inventor Project have been testing the bounds of patent law by seeking to have DABUS recognised as the inventor of a patent in a number of jurisdictions with limited success.

As we reported here, Australia was the first jurisdiction where the Artificial Inventor Project experienced substantive success, with a single judge of the Federal Court finding in July 2021 that there was no barrier to DABUS being named as an inventor. The Commissioner of Patents appealed. Notably a panel of five judges was formed to hear the appeal; two more than for most appeals.

The Decision

On 12 April 2022, the Full Court delivered a unanimous decision in favour of the Commissioner of Patents, overturning the earlier finding.1 Most helpfully, the Full Court provided a thorough review of earlier authority and commentary on entitlement that lead to the unavoidable conclusions that for the purposes of the Australian Patents Act:

  • “the origin of entitlement to the grant of a patent lies in human endeavour, which is rewarded by the grant of a limited term monopoly”2;
  • that “Only a natural person can be an inventor”3;
  • “an inventor must be identified for any person to be entitled to a grant of a patent”4; and
  • “Something without a legal identity cannot give effect to an assignment”5.


It could be considered wasteful for a panel of five judges to convene to overturn an earlier decision on an issue of niche statutory (re)interpretation. And so it was not unexpected to see the appeal court go further and strongly suggest a reconsideration of current policy settings in light of artificial intelligence. The court said:

In our view, there are many propositions that arise for consideration in the context of artificial intelligence and inventions. They include whether, as a matter of policy, a person who is an inventor should be redefined to include an artificial intelligence. If so, to whom should a patent be granted in respect of its output? The options include one or more of: the owner of the machine upon which the artificial intelligence software runs, the developer of the artificial intelligence software, the owner of the copyright in its source code, the person who inputs the data used by the artificial intelligence to develop its output, and no doubt others. If an artificial intelligence is capable of being recognised as an inventor, should the standard of inventive step be recalibrated such that it is no longer judged by reference to the knowledge and thought processes of the hypothetical uninventive skilled worker in the field? If so, how? What continuing role might the ground of revocation for false suggestion or misrepresentation have, in circumstances where the inventor is a machine?

To these we would add: can an artificial intelligence make an invention or, is it a tool through which new and useful things can be brought into existence without there being any invention?


To that end it is important to note that the Full Court’s decision was issued on the basis of an agreed set of facts in which no alternative inventor would be named. The Full Court was careful to highlight that “Dr Thaler is the owner of the copyright in the DABUS source code and the computer on which DABUS operates, and that he is also responsible for the maintenance and running costs”6 from which one might infer inventorship could be attributed to that natural person. But for now, at least, that determination remains unanswered.


1 Commissioner of Patents v Thaler [2022] FCAFC 62.

2 Ibid. at [116].

3 Ibid. at [113].

4 Ibid. at [113].

5 Commissioner of Patents v Thaler [2022] FCAFC 62 at [108].

6 Ibid. at [121].

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