In three previous blog posts, we have discussed recent inventorship issues surrounding Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and its implications for life sciences innovations – focusing specifically on scientist Stephen Thaler’s attempt to obtain a patent for an invention created by his AI system called DABUS (“Device for Autonomus Bootstrapping of Unified Sentence). Most recently, we considered Thaler’s appeal of the September 3, 2021 decision out of the Eastern District of Virginia, which ruled that under the Patent Act, an AI machine cannot qualify as an “inventor.” Continuing this series, we now consider the USPTO’s recently filed opposition to Thaler’s appeal.

Patent claim limitations that are “negative”—that is, claim limitations specifying the absence of a particular element from the patent claim—can pose a dilemma in the written description context. How much of the specification should be devoted to something that is not supposed to be part of the claim? The answer may be none at all according to a recent Federal Circuit decision, Novartis Pharmaceuticals v. Accord Healthcare Inc. The key, according to the decision, is that the specification should not describe the negative limitation in a manner inconsistent with how it is used in the claim.

Our previous blog posts, Artificial Intelligence as the Inventor of Life Sciences Patents? and Update on Artificial Intelligence: Court Rules that AI Cannot Qualify As “Inventor,” discuss recent inventorship issues surrounding AI and its implications for life sciences innovations. Continuing our series, we now look at the appeal recently filed by Stephen Thaler (“Thaler”) in his quest to obtain a patent for an invention created by AI in the absence of a traditional human inventor. 

In Univ. of Strathclyde v. Clear-Vu Lighting LLC, the Federal Circuit grappled with the issue of whether claims directed to methods and systems for inactivating bacteria using blue light were obvious in view of a prior art combination that taught the claimed elements but lacked an indication of success. Ultimately, the Federal Circuit found that the patent’s success where the prior art failed – inactivation of the bacteria without a photosensitizer did not support a finding of obviousness.

Striking a blow to patent applicants seeking to assert inventorship by artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on September 3, 2021 that an AI machine cannot qualify as an “inventor” under the Patent Act.  The fight is now expected to move to the Federal Circuit on appeal.

The question whether an artificial intelligence (“AI”) system can be named as an inventor in a patent application has obvious implications for the life science community, where AI’s presence is now well established and growing. For example, AI is currently used to predict biological targets of prospective drug molecules, identify candidates for drug design, decode genetic material of viruses in the context of vaccine development, determine three-dimensional structures of proteins, including their folding form, and many more potential therapeutic applications.