The Ongoing Pursuit for Clarity Around IP and the AI Revolution

Sarah Webb

Following VWV’s recent article on the tax implications of vesting and reverse vesting, Sarah Webb, Partner at the national law firm, takes a closer look at the pursuit for clarity around IP and the AI revolution.

Since our article last year outlining the complex legal challenges in the IP world arising from the increased use of AI, the global debate has escalated across governments and academia.

Following on from its White Paper on AI in February 2020, the European Commission has led the way with its extensive 2021 Work Programme and a series of documents detailing co-ordinated plans to create a Europe ‘fit for the digital age’. In a proposed regulation, it sets out a legal framework through which it seeks to address the protection of the underlying rights in AI systems. Pending adoption of its proposals, collaboration with member states to effect implementation of the Commission’s plans continues apace.

Meanwhile in the UK, during September 2021:

  • the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the IPO’s decision that the AI machine called DABUS could not be an inventor for patent purposes in rejecting the appeal raised by Stephen Thaler
  • the Government published its national AI strategy document setting out plans to secure the UK’s position as a major global AI player through its investment in an AI ecosystem, AI innovation and governing AI effectively

The Government has already implemented some of the shorter term objectives outlined in its strategy, such as the publication by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation of a roadmap outlining steps to an effective AI assurance ecosystem and the launch of a consultation through the IPO on:

  • the question of copyright protection for AI
  • possible licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining
  • whether the IPO should protect inventions made by AI – should the definition of ‘inventor’ under current law be broadened to include individuals responsible for the AI system

We do not yet know how the IPO’s findings might shape legislation. However, there is no doubt that the primary assumptions behind the A1 strategy document anticipate forthcoming regulatory and legislative change.

The Government has also actioned the creation of a new AI standards hub announced last week, which, in its pilot phase, will focus on education, training and collaboration across the AI community in the development of AI technical standards.

Clarity on the vast array of IP issues raised by AI we don’t have, but what is clear is the strong momentum driving the UK’s ambitions to ensure that we are well placed to take advantage of AI across the global stage.

Sarah Webb is a Partner in the Commercial team at national law firm VWV. Contact Sarah on 0121 227 3737 or swebb@vwv.co.uk.