IPO consults on AI and IP: copyright and patents

November 1, 2021

The IPO is considering the intellectual property rights of patents and copyright, which reward and protect inventions and creative works. It says that AI is playing an increasing role in both technical innovation and artistic creativity. Further, patents and copyright must provide the right incentives to AI development and innovation, while continuing to promote human creativity and innovation. It also points out that AI can support innovation and creativity in a range of ways. It can be a tool for scientists, entrepreneurs and artists, enabling new human inventions and creations. Some believe that AI will soon be inventing and creating things in ways that make it impossible to identify the human intellectual input in the final invention or work. Some people feel this is happening now.

It also says that if or when inventive and creative AI exists, the IP system must be appropriate to secure benefits to society of this innovation. Meanwhile, the UK must ensure that patents and copyright also work where AI is supportive of invention and creativity but not its sole author or inventor.

In response to the IPO’s previous call for views on AI and IP, questions were raised about the balance in the copyright system between the protection of human works and AI works. Some respondents felt that copyright might present barriers in the development of AI itself. For example, using works subject to copyright when training AI and in innovation and research. For patents, issues were identified that may act as a barrier to innovation as the use of AI systems increases.

The IPO is now consulting on three specific areas:

  • Copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author. These are currently protected in the UK for 50 years. But should they be protected at all and if so, how should they be protected?
  • Licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining, which is often significant in AI use and development.
  • Patent protection for AI-devised inventions. Should we protect them, and if so, how should they be protected?
  • The IPO says that any measures put in place should:
  • Encourage innovation in AI technology and promote its use for the public good;
  • Preserve the central role of intellectual property in promoting human creativity and innovation;
  • Be based on the best available economic evidence.

The consultation ends on 7 January 2022. After the consultation closes the government will assess responses. The information obtained will inform a government decision on any changes to legislation.