Inventorship in patent law

Inventorship in patent law

Who can be considered an inventor under patent law? What is the European approach to artificial intelligence (AI)? To find out join us for an international conference on 16 May 2022.

AI technology is changing the way we live. And while it promises to solve many problems the world is facing, it also poses unique new challenges. In 2018, the filing of patent applications indicating an AI system called DABUS as the inventor sparked an international discussion on the concept of inventorship under patent law. More than three years later, the time is now ripe to recap the findings of the patent offices and courts on this matter for a better understanding of the concept of inventorship in patent law as well as of the implications for the right to the patent.

Bringing together speakers from various jurisdictions in which decisions on the DABUS applications were issued, this conference will provide invaluable first-hand insight into the topic of inventorship in patent law from an international perspective.

The event will offer an overview of the decisions on the DABUS applications issued in various jurisdictions and provide a forum for discussing the common lines and differences between the opinions issued by courts and patent offices. It will also be an opportunity for the speakers to discuss the impact of the various decisions and any future developments, as well as to take a broader look at inventorship, to explain the EU's approach to AI and to discuss the nature of the right to a patent and its origins.

Please join us for this unique online event. Registration is free of charge and open now.

Event details

Past event
13:30 - 16:10 h



Monday, 16 May 2022


13.30 hrs

Opening of the event by

Christoph Ernst, Vice-President of Legal and International Affairs (VP 5)

13.35 hrs

Presentation on the European approach to artificial intelligence (AI), including the advantages and risks for individuals, the economy and society, the benefits of human-centred perspectives, and initiatives taken towards a balanced and harmonised approach, such as the draft AI Act

Axel Voss

13.55 hrs

Introduction to "DABUS" applications indicating an AI system as the inventor – a brief history and the international landscape

Heli Pihlajamaa, European Patent Office

14.15 hrs

Overview of decisions on "DABUS" applications taken in various jurisdictions, by the following speakers from the respective jurisdictions (in the form of ten-minute presentations):

Wolfgang Sekretaruk, Chair of the Legal Board of Appeal, European Patent Office

Duncan Matthews, United Kingdom

Ansgar Ohly, Germany

Dan L. Burk, United States of America

Mark Summerfield, Australia

Moderator: Aliki Nichogiannopoulou, European Patent Office

15.05 hrs

Coffee break

15.15 hrs

Panel discussion:

  • How some jurisdictions reached the same conclusion
  • Why some jurisdictions reached different conclusions
  • The impact of the decisions

Moderator: Aliki Nichogiannopoulou, European Patent Office

15.45 hrs

Presentation on the right to a patent, its origins and the consequences of the fundamental principle that the right to the patent is originally vested with the inventor

Martin Stierle

16.05 hrs

Closing remarks by Gilles Requena, Chief International and Legal Officer

16.10 hrs

End of the event

Speakers and panellists



Aliki Nichogiannopoulou
Aliki Nichogiannopoulou studied molecular biology in Germany and the US, where she obtained her PhD and conducted post-doctoral research. Before joining the EPO in 1998, she worked for several years as a researcher. At the EPO she leads the Biotechnology directorate in Munich. She has given a number of lectures on patenting biotechnological inventions and its commercial and ethical implications.


Ansgar Ohly
Ansgar Ohly holds the Chair of Intellectual Property and Competition Law at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. He is also a permanent visiting professor at the University of Oxford. He studied law in Bonn and Cambridge and obtained a doctorate from the Ludwig Maximilian University. Prior to joining the Munich Law Faculty, he was a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Munich and a professor at the University of Bayreuth. Ansgar Ohly is the author of many publications on patent, copyright, trade mark, trade secret and unfair competition law. He is also a co-editor of GRUR, the leading German intellectual property journal.


Christoph Ernst
Christoph Ernst is the Vice-President Legal and International Affairs of the European Patent Office. In this capacity, he is in charge of International Cooperation with IP Offices and stakeholders inside and outside Europe, Patent Information, Patent Knowledge and Legal Affairs. As a member of the top management team, he is involved in a broad range of strategic matters.

Before joining the EPO, he held leadership positions at the German Federal Ministry of Justice for over two decades, where under his supervision and leadership a range of sophisticated legislative projects have been successfully concluded, starting with rules on financial markets and moving on to intellectual property, with legislation on patent and copyright law and acts to prepare and implement the Unitary Patent and the EU Trade Mark Directive.

He is the author of a number of publications and articles and a key speaker at international conferences.


Dan L. Burk
Dan L. Burk is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine, where he was a founding member of the law faculty. An internationally prominent authority on issues related to high technology, he lectures, teaches and writes in the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce and biotechnology law. He is the author of numerous papers on the legal and societal impact of new technologies, including articles on Internet regulation, on the structure of the patent system and on the implications of artificial intelligence. He is consistently ranked among the most highly cited intellectual property scholars in the American legal academy.

Professor Burk holds a BS in Microbiology (1985) from Brigham Young University, an MS in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (1987) from Northwestern University, a JD (1990) from Arizona State University and a JSM (1994) from Stanford University. He has taught at leading institutions around the world, including Humboldt University, Sciences Po and Bocconi University. In 2019 he was a visiting senior fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including two Fulbright fellowships: in 2011 to the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, Germany, and in 2017 to the Oxford Internet Institute in the United Kingdom.

Mark Summerfield
Mark Summerfield is an IP and technology consultant, a registered Australian and New Zealand Patent Attorney, and author of the Patentology blog (, where he has been writing since 2010 on Australian and international issues relating to innovation, patents, law and policy. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a PhD in optical telecommunications, and worked for over a decade in academic and industrial roles in research, development and commercialization, before joining the patent attorney profession. Dr Summerfield spent 15 years with one of Australia's leading boutique IP firms, prior to becoming an independent consultant. He now provides a range of IP, business, and technology advisory services, and has extensive experience in patent drafting and prosecution in the field of digital information and software systems, including applications of machine learning and AI technologies. He has also worked with IP Australia on automating production of its Intellectual Property Government Open Data (IPGOD) dataset using machine learning techniques.

Dr Summerfield has been listed in the IAM Strategy 300: the World's Leading IP Strategists, and in Managing IP's IP Stars for his patent work. From 2013 to 2017 he was the main contributing author of the patents commentary in the CCH Australian Industrial and Intellectual Property service. He has lectured on IP to business and IT students at La Trobe University, on US patent practice at Monash University, and he is a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where he lectures on Australian patent practice.

Duncan Matthews
Duncan Matthews is the former Director of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute and a member of the Centre for Commercial Law Studies. He has acted as an advisor to the EPO, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the UK Intellectual Property Office, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization. He is the author of over 60 publications on intellectual property law and is co-editor of the Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and the Life Sciences. He teaches European, US and international patent law to postgraduate law students and he is an expert on the patent provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. His research interests include: the relationship between competition law and patent law, the role of patents in the governance of CRISPR gene editing technologies, IP responses to COVID-19, intellectual property law in China, and the development of the Unified Patent Court of the European Union.


Gilles Requena
Gilles Requena is the Chief International and Legal Officer of the European Patent Office since November 2019. Supporting the Vice-President in charge of the Directorate General Legal and International Affairs, he supervises the activities of three Principal Directorates (Cooperation and Patent Academy, Legal Affairs, Patent Knowledge). He is a member of several EPO management boards advising the President of the Office. He joined the EPO in 2010 and became the Chief of Staff in 2015. Earlier he spent 15 years in the French IP Office (INPI) as an expert of the Legal Division and later as Head of the European and International Affairs Department. He has extended experience in negotiation of IP regulations at EU and international levels.


Heli Pihlajamaa
Heli studied Law at Helsinki University and at Max Planck Institute in Munich and worked in both the private and public sectors before joining the EPO. Heli first worked as a lawyer in the Patent Law directorate before becoming its director in 2011. She is responsible for supporting the EPO policy by developing, strengthening and promoting the EPC, including proposals for legal changes, compliance of operations with patent law-related norms and case law and advises EPO higher management on policy issues and legal amendments.

In 2020 Heli was heavily involved in the changes implemented in the patent grant procedure and other implications of COVID-19 for the European patent system.


Martin Stierle
Martin Stierle is the Associate Professor in Intellectual Property Law at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance at the University of Luxembourg. Moreover, he is the founding Co-Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law, Information and Technology (CIPLITEC). His main field of academic interest is the intersection of law and technology with a specific focus on patents and their enforcement.

Before joining the University of Luxembourg, Martin Stierle was working at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich, the DFG Graduate School “Intellectual Property and the Public Domain”, and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2017, he received his doctorate from the LMU Munich with a thesis on non-practiced patents. His current works include legal-economic projects on the crossroads of patent law and “artificial intelligence” as well as patent law and the life sciences industry.


Wolfgang Sekretaruk
Wolfgang Sekretaruk is Chairman of the Legal Board of Appeal, Deputy of the President of the Boards of Appeal and Head of the Legal Services of the Boards of Appeal. He has been a legal member of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office since 2005 and was Chairman of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.06 (Computer Technology) from 2014-2018. Mr Sekretaruk is a former German judge who served at courts including the Federal Patent Court and the Munich Regional Court, where he heard IP cases. He graduated from the University of Munich School of Law and holds a PhD in law and a master’s degree in mediation. He has many years of experience as a lecturer in areas including German and European procedural law.