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Artwork Made by Artificial Intelligence Denied Copyright Protection

by | Feb 25, 2022 | Blog, Copyright, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In the face of human authorship and human inventorship requirements, many wonder how and when, if ever, protection for inventions and creative works generated by artificial intelligence (AI) will fit into the intellectual property realm.

On February 14, 2022, a second request for reconsideration in a copyright application for AI-made artwork, entitled A Recent Entrance to Paradise, was rejected because it lacked the required human authorship to receive protection. The Copyright Review Board, which hears final administrative appeals of refusals of copyright registrations at the U.S. Copyright Office, issued the rejection. Applicant Steven Thaler argued throughout the proceedings that “the human authorship requirement is unconstitutional and unsupported by either statute or case law.” In its decision, however, the Board pointed to a robust body of precedent in response, including Supreme Court opinions, as well as sections of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices to support its rejection. The Board summarized that copyright law protects only “the fruits of intellectual labor” that “are founded in the creative powers of the human mind.” Irrespective of the type of creative work, the Board emphasized that the U.S. Copyright Office currently “will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work.”

The denial of protection for A Recent Entrance to Paradise comes on the heels of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) decision from 2020, known as the “DABUS” case. There, the USPTO concluded that AI cannot be considered an inventor under our patent regime. The catalyst in the DABUS case was a petition regarding a patent application, in which the applied-for invention was generated by an AI creativity machine named “DABUS.” Accordingly, the petitioner named DABUS as the inventor on the application, claiming that “it was the machine, not a person, which recognized the novelty and salience of the invention.” In a manner similar to Thaler, the DABUS petitioner argued that inventorship should not be limited to natural persons, but the USPTO fiercely disagreed.

In finding that the patent laws preclude naming an AI as an inventor, the USPTO relied on Title 35 of the U.S. Code (“35 U.S.C.”) and relevant precedent. The opinion noted that 35 U.S.C. “consistently refers to inventors as natural persons” and pointed to § 100(a), under which an “inventor” is defined as an “individual.” The USPTO also emphasized § 101, which states: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter . . . may obtain a patent therefor. . . .” From this language, the USPTO reasoned that the term “whoever” suggests a natural person. The Office also described sections of 35 U.S.C. employing “pronouns specific to natural persons” such as “himself” or “herself,” in addition to citing a requirement that an inventor who executes an oath must be a person. All in all, the USPTO decided that “the patent laws require that an inventor be a natural person.” The DABUS application was finally rejected, and the Office declared that “[n]o further requests for reconsideration [would] be entertained.”

A Recent Entrance To Paradise

[1] See, e.g., U.S. Patent Application No. US16/524,350 (filed July 29, 2019) (Dep. Comm’r Pat.

Apr. 27, 2020) (petition denied) (https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/16524350_22apr2020.pdf)  (inventor listed on patent was a non-human AI machine named DABUS).

[2] COMPENDIUM OF U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE PRACTICES ch. 300 § 306 (2021),

https://copyright.gov/comp3/chap300/ch300-copyrightable-authorship.pdf.

[3] A Recent Entrance to Paradise, Copyright Review Board (https://www.copyright.gov/rulings-filings/review-board/docs/a-recent-entrance-to-paradise.pdf) (last accessed February 24, 2022 at 2:56 PM).

[4] Id.

[5] See, e.g., Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53 (1884) (wherein the Court refers to authors as human).

[6] A Recent Entrance to Paradise, Copyright Review Board (https://www.copyright.gov/rulings-filings/review-board/docs/a-recent-entrance-to-paradise.pdf) (last accessed February 24, 2022 at 2:56 PM) (emphasis added).

[7] Id.

[8] U.S. Patent Application No. US16/524,350 (filed July 29, 2019) (Dep. Comm’r Pat.

Apr. 27, 2020) (petition denied) (https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/16524350_22apr2020.pdf).

[9] Id.

[10] Id.