The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the United Kingdom just closed a consultation on policy options for changes to patent and copyright legislation to better protect technology created by artificial intelligence (AI).

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

The UK IPO consultation sought to understand the evidence and views on the intellectual property rights associated with inventions and creative works developed by AI. Specifically, the consultation looked into the following three areas:

  • Copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author. If work is created by AI, should the work be protected, and if so, how? The United Kingdom is one of the few countries that protect works generated by a computer where there is no human creator. Currently, this protection lasts for 50 years from the date the work is made.
  • Licensing 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. To data mine, it is often necessary to acquire a copyright license or to rely on a copyright exception, which the United Kingdom introduced in 2014.
  • Patent protection for AI-devised inventions. Should the IPO protect inventions made by AI, and if so, how? The IPO has already received two patent applications which name an AI system as the inventor. However, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that UK patent applicants must name a human inventor or inventors.

According to the IPO, any 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 evidence.

Some argue that protection for AI-generated works will incentivize investment in AI technology. Others advocate that protecting AI-generated works may promote these works at the expense of human-created works, and such protection could reduce innovation and competition. For example, reduced innovation costs associated with AI-devised inventions could result in a larger volume of patents held by a smaller number of persons or entities.

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