Takeaway: Inventors must name a natural person as the inventor for European patent applications.

The European Patent Office (EPO) rejected two patent applications filed last year, a flashing beacon light and a plastic food container, that named a machine as the inventor. This rejection does not come as a shock, as the European Patent Convention’s (EPC) requirements for inventorship include that the inventor must be a “natural person.” The office cited its reasons for the rejection of the two patent applications stating that the EPC was written with “clear legislative understanding that the inventor is a natural person.”

Despite naming the machine in the applications, the EPO takes the position that machines or artificial intelligence currently lack a “legal personality” regardless of them being named. Until lawmakers pass legislation specifically to afford machines legal rights, they are not capable of patenting an invention with the EPO. As technology advances, a change in law may be inevitable as the use of artificial intelligence continues to grow.