Patents and AI: UK government responds to AI and IP consultation

The UK government has published its response to last year’s consultation on how copyright, patents and AI can work together as AI’s development and deployment gathers pace.

Reflecting the sweeping impact and great potential of AI, the consultation attracted interest from a diverse range of sectors. Over 60 people participated in roundtable discussions, and 88 written submissions were received. The UK government also talked to AI service/equipment providers, entrepreneurs, and inventors, among others.


Copyright protection for computer-generated works (CGWs) lasts for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made. 

In line with the majority view expressed in written responses to the consultation, the UK government has decided to make no changes to existing protection for CGWs. Future changes to CGW protection have not been ruled out, however, at least in view of the emerging interplay between AI and generating creative content.


On the other hand, the UK government plans to introduce a new copyright and database right exception which allows text and data mining (TDM) for any purpose. Rights holders will still have safeguards to protect their content, including a requirement for lawful access.

This exception seeks to improve the UK’s standing as a global centre for AI innovation. For example, as TDM is used to train AI systems, the lifting of restrictions in this area is expected to support research and innovation in digital health.


As for the protection of CGWs, there will be no change to UK patent legislation at present.

A view shared by many respondents on the topic of AI inventorship is that any rule change should be harmonised at an international level. Without consensus on whether AI is advanced enough to invent without human input (also who should own patents when AI is the inventor, as exemplified by the ‘DABUS’ cases), a unilateral change to UK legislation would be premature and may even be detrimental to the UK’s innovation landscape.

The response nonetheless states:

We 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. We will seek to advance AI inventorship discussions internationally to support UK economic interests.


The response fulfils a key action of the National AI strategy (you’ll find more detail here in our insight piece) and reveals a commitment for continued review and discussions on AI and IP matters.

The planned exception for TDM goes further than the EU’s corresponding provision, Art. 3 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. This covers TDM for the purposes of scientific research, subject to lawful access, which if left unchanged could result in the UK gaining a competitive edge.

The question of whether AI should have legal personality, however, has relevance beyond IP law so is likely to require broader ethical and moral debate. 

Consequently the status quo for UK patents remains that the UKIPO may grant a patent for an invention assisted by AI, provided the legal requirements on ownership are satisfied.

To find out more about how IP can help you create commercial value from your AI innovations, feel free to contact any of our electronics and computing team.