Robot inventors

FT.com notes “A laboratory robot called Adam has been hailed as the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators.”

Patent bar exam trivia question of the day:  can the robot be listed as an inventor on a U.S. patent application?

4 thoughts on “Robot inventors”

  1. Interesting question, sadly it is unlikely to result in a machine-as-inventor. For a moment we will discount that robots do as they are programmed to.

    Turning first to 35 USC for guidance, there is no definition provided for ‘inventor’ in § 100. § 101 states that “Whoever invents or discovers…may obtain a patent therefor…”
    Hmmm, the term ‘whoever’ doesn’t seem to discount a machine. Looking at § 102, Conditions for patentability, it states “A person shall be entitled to a patent…” seems to quash the notion that a machine could be an inventor, assuming that robots are not considered ‘persons’. Several sections (103, 104) make reference to ‘person’. The dictionary definition for person is a human being.

    One issue with the robot-as-an-inventor scenario:
    How does a robot execute an oath or declaration?
    § 115 says “[t]he applicant shall make oath that he believes himself to be the original and first inventor…”. Not likely.

    Although you may be able to make the argument that, like a legally incapacitated inventor, an machine can have the legal representative make the oath/dec for him (it) under Rule 1.43. Determining the legal representative may be a challenge. One avenue would be to argue that the corporation owning the robot is the legal rep thus allowing the oath/dec to be made on behalf of the robot.

    Rejoining the fact that robots do as they are programmed, what is the likelihood that the original programmer(s) of the robot would be able to claim inventorship of the robots work?

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