DABUS: South Africa Grants Patent Recognising AI System as an Inventor

South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) is the first patent office in the world to award a patent designating an AI – DABUS as the inventor. DABUS is an AI system created by Stephen Thaler. The CIPC published this patent grant in the CIPC July 2021 Patent Journal.

This patent grant is still held by some stakeholders in the field to be of significance, given that several patent applications had been filed in 2018 and 2019 by Dr. Stephen Thaler, a pioneer in the area of artificial intelligence at the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office(UKIPO), European Patent Office (EPO), United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and other patent offices, listing DABUS – a type of connectionist AI as the inventor and these applications had been rejected as the legal frameworks applied by the UKIPO, EPO, USPTO, and similar jurisdictions, require the inventor to be human, and DABUS is a machine.

However, other stakeholders have stated that since South Africa’s CIPC does not offer a substantive examination of its patent applications and simply requires applicants to complete a filing for their invention, this may not have a significant impact in other jurisdictions. They also suggested that legal frameworks governing the registration of patents should first be amended or new legislation enacted to cover the field before such recognition of an AI as a patent inventor.

It would be interesting to see the impact of the decision of the CIPC in other jurisdictions when a patent application is made listing an AI as its inventor.

* DABUS – device for the autonomous bootstrapping of unified sentience

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