UK government issues response to consultation about AI and IP

June 27, 2022

In October, the UK government sought evidence and views on a range of options on how AI should be dealt with in the patent and copyright systems. It considered three specific areas:

  • copyright protection for computer-generated works (CGWs) without a human author;
  • licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining (TDM), which is often significant in AI use and development; and
  • patent protection for AI-devised inventions.

It has now issued its response to that consultation.

Computer-generated works

For computer-generated works, the government plans no changes to the law. There is no evidence at present that protection for CGWs is harmful, and the use of AI is still in its early stages. As such, a proper evaluation of the options is not possible, and any changes could have unintended consequences. The government says that it will keep the law under review and could amend, replace or remove protection in future if the evidence supports it.

AI-devised inventions

For AI-devised inventions it currently plans no change to UK patent law. Most respondents felt that AI is not yet advanced enough to invent without human intervention. However, it says that it will keep this area of law under review to ensure that the UK patent system supports AI innovation and the use of AI in the UK. It will seek to advance AI inventorship discussions internationally to support UK economic interests.

Text and data mining

TDM means using computational techniques to analyse large amounts of information to identify patterns, trends and other useful information. Although factual data, trends and concepts are not protected by copyright, they are often embedded in copyright works. Data mining systems copy works to extract and analyse the data they contain. Unless permitted under licence or an exception, making such copies will constitute copyright infringement. Some rights holders license their works to allow TDM, but others do not. This has financial costs for people using data mining software. To reduce these costs for researchers, an exception to copyright for TDM was introduced in 2014. This is set out in section 29A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It is limited to non-commercial research.

For text and data mining, the government plans to introduce a new copyright and database exception which allows TDM for any purpose. Rights holders will no longer be able to charge for UK licences for TDM and will not be able to contract or opt-out of the exception. The new provision may also affect those who have built partial business models around data licensing. Rights holders will still have safeguards to protect their content, including a requirement for lawful access. That is, rights holders can choose the platform where they make their works available, including charging for access via subscription or single charge. They will also be able to take measures to ensure the integrity and security of their systems. The Government will identify suitable legislation to make the required changes in due course.