16 November 2021

UK Government launches intellectual property and artificial intelligence consultation

The UK Government officially launched its consultation on intellectual property (IP) and artificial intelligence (AI) on 29 October 2021, as part of the National AI Strategy (see our summary here) which aims to ensure the UK continues to be a world-leader in AI development and deployment.

In brief, the consultation is designed to seek opinions on the issues surrounding IP – in particular copyright and patents – and AI as a tool for innovation and creation. The responses will help the UK Government to design and implement solutions that will tackle these issues and pave the way through our increasingly AI-driven world.

Why is this consultation happening?

This consultation follows the earlier call for views on AI and IP, a response to which was published in March 2021, in which a number of questions were raised regarding the role of copyright and patents to protect inventions and creative works arising from AI.

For example, there was concern that copyright can restrict the development of AI by limiting what sources can be used for developing or training AI. In addition, issues were identified with the patent system that may also act as a barrier to AI innovation or use.

There is also the ongoing debate over whether IP rights can or should be used to protect inventions and creative works partly or wholly arising from AI, and how or to what extent this protection occurs.

What will the consultation focus on?

The consultation therefore focuses on three specific areas to understand these issues in more detail:

  1. Copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author. These are currently protected in the UK for 50 years, but the question is: should they be protected at all, and if so, how?
  2. Licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining, which is often significant in AI use and development.
  3. Patent protection for AI-devised inventions: should we protect them, and if so, how?

What does the UK Government hope to achieve?

The ambition behind the consultation is to ‘encourage innovation in AI technology and promote its use for the public good’. In addition, the consultation aims to ‘preserve the central role of IP in promoting human creativity’.

Similarly, the UK Government have emphasised that any new measures implemented as a result of the consultation must also meet these goals and be based on the best available economic evidence.

Responding to the consultation

The consultation will run for 10 weeks – it began on 29 October 2021 and will close at 11.45pm on 7 January 2022. Responses must be submitted via a completed response form, available online, to a specially created email address. The form is split into two main sections; one requests information from the responder, and one sets out 21 questions further breaking down the three key areas described above.

What happens after 7 January 2022?

Following the consultation, the UK Government will consider the responses and publish a formal response document in due course. The consultation states that the information obtained will be used to inform government decisions on any changes to legislation that appear necessary as a result and will help to achieve the aims of encouraging AI innovation and implementation, whilst still promoting and protecting human creativity.

The UK Government have also published an Impact Assessment, which provides further information about the consultation and indicates there are no preferred options at this consultation stage. It will be interesting to see whether there is a consensus preferred option from the responses to the consultation, and how the UK Government takes the findings into consideration going forwards.

We are pleased to see the attention the UK Government is dedicating to the role of IP in AI and if any clients or contacts have views on any of the questions the consultation seeks answers on, we would be happy to hear their thoughts.