Stephen Thaler is a scientist and inventor who has spent more than 20 years working in the aerospace industry. During that time, he has worked in a variety of fields, including radiation effects in solids, high-energy lasers, low-observable technology, and the development of rare materials like diamond in laser plasmas. He has worked on connectionism for almost 40 years and is particularly interested in using constraint softening in artificial neural networks to develop novel ideas and/or strategies. He currently focuses the majority of his research on computational psychology utilizing artificial neural network paradigms that are patented.
The University of Missouri–Columbia awarded Stephen Thaler a Ph.D. in Physics for his work on silicon radiation damage. He conducted this research using computational lattice models, the forerunners of contemporary artificial neural networks, to simulate such damage. After a 15-year stint at McDonnell Douglas, he left the company and started his own business, filing patents that weren’t accidental and dealt with intentionally and profitably harming neural networks. He presently serves as the president and chief executive officer of Imagination Engines, Inc., a business that specializes in computational creativity and largely serves the DoD. He is renowned for his explorations of both human and artificial intelligence, regularly writing and giving lectures on these subjects.
Stephen Thaler developed the artificial intelligence (AI) system known as DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentence). According to reports, it came up with two innovative products: a flashing beacon for calling attention in an emergency and a food container built utilizing fractal design to facilitate quick reheating. Patent offices and courts have made decisions regarding whether or not to grant a patent for an invention that was allegedly created by an AI system as a result of the filing of patent applications naming DABUS as the inventor.
DABUS is a proprietary artificial intelligence paradigm that can support billions of computational neurons in large artificial neural networks that mimic the limbo-thalamo-cortical loop found in mammalian brains. These systems make use of collections of trainable neural modules, each of which has interconnected memories that reflect a particular conceptual space. These modules come together thanks to basic learning principles to describe as chaining topologies both complicated concepts (such juxtapositional innovations) and their effects. The array of neural modules is scanned by an electro-optical attention window to look for “hot buttons,” or neural modules with significant memories. The release or retraction of synaptic disruptions into the system is triggered by the detection of such hot buttons within consequence chains, reinforcing the most important chain-based ideas.
On September 17, 2019, Stephen Thaler submitted a patent application for a “Food container and devices and methods for attracting enhanced attention,” crediting DABUS as the creator. On September 21, 2020, IP Australia determined that Thaler’s application had expired because section 15(1) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) is incompatible with treating an artificial intelligence machine as an inventor. After Stephen Thaler requested judicial review, the Federal Court reversed IP Australia’s ruling and ordered IP Australia to reevaluate the application by July 30, 2021. By holding that only a natural person can qualify as an inventor for the purposes of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) and the Patents Regulations 1991 (Cth) and that such an inventor must be identified in order for anyone to be entitled to the grant of a patent, the Full Court of the Federal Court overturned that ruling on April 13, 2022. Stephen Thaler was denied special leave to appeal to the High Court on November 11, 2022.
Stephen Thaler submitted two European patent applications to the European Patent Office on October 17 and November 7, respectively. A “Food Container” was the first invention that was claimed, and “Devices and Methods for Attracting Enhanced Attention” was the second.
In accordance with Article 81 and Rule 19(1) of the European Patent Convention, the EPO rejected the applications on January 27, 2020, on the grounds that DABUS, an AI system, was designated as the inventor rather than a human.
Stephen Thaler’s appeal against the EPO’s initial judgement was denied by the Board of Appeal of the EPO on December 21, 2021. According to the Board of Appeal, “under the EPC, the designated inventor must be a person of legal age. The EPC was not simply written based on an assumption. It is an inventor in the traditional sense of the word.
On October 17 and November 7, 2018, Thaler submitted similar petitions to the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office. Within 16 months following the filing date, the Office requested that Stephen Thaler submit Statements of Inventorship and of Right of Grant to a Patent (Patent Form 7) for each invention. DABUS was listed as the inventor on those documents, and Stephen Thaler included a detailed explanation of his position on whether or not machines could be considered to be inventors in the given situation.
His application was denied for two reasons: (1) designating a machine as the inventor did not comply with the Patents Act of 1977; and (2) the IPO was not satisfied with the way Stephen Thaler had acquired the rights that would have otherwise belonged to the inventor. Thaler requested a hearing before the “hearing officer” because he was not happy with the verdict. Thaler’s appeal was denied by the hearing officer in a ruling dated 4 December 2019.
The Patents Court, a specialized court within the Chancery Division of the High Court of England and Wales that resolves patent disputes, heard Thaler’s appeal against the hearing officer’s ruling. Mr. Justice Marcus Smith upheld the hearing officer’s judgment on September 21, 2020. Thaler’s additional appeal to the Court of Appeal was rejected by Arnold LJ and Laing LJ on September 21, 2021 (Birss LJ dissenting).
The United States
The USPTO rejected the patent applications for the ideas on the grounds that only real people can be listed as inventors in patent applications. By bringing a complaint under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Thaler first contested this outcome, claiming that the judgment was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with the law; unsupported by substantial evidence, and in excess of Defendants’ statutory authority.” In accordance with 37 C.F.R. 1.181, Thaler submitted a petition to the USPTO on August 19, 2019, asserting that DABUS should be credited as the inventor. In this instance, the judge and Thaler concurred that Thaler is ineligible to accept the patent on behalf of DABUS.
A patent application (776029) submitted by Stephen Thaler was declared null and void by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) on January 31st, 2022, on the grounds that no inventor was named in the patent applications. According to IPONZ, DABUS could not be “an actual devisor of the invention” as required by the Patents Act 2013 and that this must be a natural person as held by the aforementioned prior patent offices.
The South African Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty proposed by Dr. Thaler, accepted it on June 24, 2021, granting a patent for inventions created by DABUS. The CIPC published a notice of issuance for the patent in July 2021. It is the first patent for an AI invention to be obtained.