Artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be the inventor of new patents, according to a ruling by the UK Court of Appeal reported by the BBC.
Patents assign the ownership of a new invention to its creator.
The BBC reports that the appeal court ruled against Stephen Thaler, creator of a system called Dabus, who took a case against the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO), after it refused patents to his AI.
Earlier this month, Thaler lost a similar case in the United States - although he has won in Australia and South Africa.
Thaler filed two patent applications in 2018 – one for a type of food container, and one for a flashing light.
He chose, however, to list Dabus as the inventor, arguing that he should be granted the patent, "by ownership of the creativity machine", while making clear that Dabus, not he, was the inventor.
The IPO told Thaler that he needed to list a real person as the inventor. Having lost his subsequent case against the IPO in the High Court, he took it to the Court of Appeal.
One judge differs
The UK panel decided, by a two-to-one majority, that an inventor must be a real human person under UK law.
"Only a person can have rights. A machine cannot," wrote Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing in her judgement. "A patent is a statutory right and it can only be granted to a person."
Lord Justice Arnold, agreeing, wrote: "In my judgement it is clear that, upon a systematic interpretation of the 1977 act, only a person can be an 'inventor'."
The third judge, Lord Justice Birss, took a different view. While he agreed that "machines are not persons", he concluded that the law did not demand that a person be named as the inventor at all.