Consultation on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property in the UK: Copyright and Patents | Morgan Lewis – Technology and Procurement


The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has just closed a consultation on policy options for changing patent and copyright laws to better protect technology created by artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is playing an increasing role in both technical innovation and artistic creativity. Legislatures are beginning to consider how patents and copyright can encourage AI development and innovation, while continuing to promote human creativity and innovation. As AI adoption continues, this issue becomes front and center; for example, we recently wrote about a US court ruling on whether an AI system could be listed as an inventor on a patent.

The UK IPO consultation aimed to understand the evidence and views on intellectual property rights associated with inventions and creative works developed by AI. More specifically, the consultation focused on the following three areas:

  • Copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author. If a work is created by AI, should it be protected, and if so, how? The UK is one of the few countries to protect computer-generated works where there is no human creator. Currently, this protection lasts 50 years from the date of production of the work.
  • Grant of Licenses or Exceptions to Copyright for Text and Data Mining. Text and data mining is the use of automated computational techniques to analyze large amounts of information to identify patterns, trends, and other information. Extracting data often requires acquiring a copyright license or relying on a copyright exception, which the UK introduced in 2014.
  • Patent protection for AI-engineered inventions. Should the IPO protect inventions made by AI, and if so, how? The IPO has already received two patent applications that name an AI system as the inventor. However, the Court of Appeal has upheld that applicants for UK patents must name a human inventor or inventors.

According to the IPO, all measures it implements 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, and
  • be based on the best available economic data.

Some argue that protecting AI-generated works will incentivize investment in AI technology. Others argue that protecting AI-generated works may promote such works at the expense of human-created works, and such protection could reduce innovation and competition. For example, reducing innovation costs associated with AI-engineered inventions could result in more patents being held by fewer people or entities.

The UK government is currently assessing the responses to the consultation, and the information obtained will inform a government decision on any changes to the legislation. We will keep you informed of any announcements.

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