The UK government’s National AI Strategy, launched on 22 September 2021, sets out a 10-year plan to make the UK a global AI superpower.
The goals of the strategy include that the UK experiences significant growth in the number of discoveries that happen in the UK, benefits from high economic and productivity growth due to AI and establishes a world-leading system for AI governance. To this end, the strategy covers a series of programmes, initiatives, and reports for strengthening the UK’s AI ecosystem.
Of particular relevance to IP is the UK government’s “aspiration that the UK’s domestic IP framework gives the UK a competitive edge”. To support this ambition, the strategy commits to:
- consult on the extent to which copyright and patents should protect AI generated inventions and creative works;
- consult on measures to make it easier to use copyright protected material in AI development; and
- an economic study to enhance understanding of the role the IP framework plays in incentivising investment in AI.
Commitment 1, which is expected to launch within the next three months, builds upon the UK IPO’s autumn 2020 Artificial intelligence and intellectual property: call for views and the UK government’s response. It also mirrors recent AI-IP policy drivers launched by the WIPO, the IP5 Offices and the European Commission, amongst others, further demonstrating the impact of AI on IP frameworks worldwide.
The strategy also discusses developing a pro-innovation regulatory and governance framework that protects the public, and leveraging the UK’s strengths in research, investment, and innovation to ensure that AI benefits all sectors and regions.
Reception of the strategy has been generally positive, UK Research and Innovation fully embracing the opportunity of AI, for example. However, no new money or details on how to realise regional success were announced. It is hoped that additional funding commitments and details on implementation come to light soon so that the goals of the strategy can be fully realised.
From a different perspective, the UK ranks third in the world for AI publication citations per capita and is home to AI heavyweights such as DeepMind and Darktrace. On the other hand, a 2019 WIPO report on AI technology trends found that UK researchers, alongside other European researchers, are less active in patenting compared to their Chinese and US counterparts. Addressing this gap will be key to the UK becoming an AI superpower; the positive signs on making the UK’s IP framework fit for purpose in the AI age are welcome in this respect.
At least in the short term, however, it is likely to be business as usual for protecting AI IP in the UK and elsewhere.