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The ODI responds to the UK government’s consultation on proposed reforms to artificial intelligence and intellectual property

Wed Jan 5, 2022
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We responded to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) consultation on AI and IP with an open letter – read our response.

[updated 9 May 2022]

Background

On 26 October 2021 the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published an open consultation: ‘Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property: copyright and patents’ featuring proposals for reform to the intellectual property (IP) system and an accompanying impact paper. The consultation closed on 7 January 2022.

The IPO has the ambition of making reforms to the UK IP system that will incentivise research, development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The consultation questions and impact assessment recognise the importance of data availability for the development of a world-leading AI sector in the UK, and put forward proposals that would improve data availability for businesses and other organisations.

The consultation for reforming the IP regime includes proposals around copyright and database rights for algorithmically produced databases, proposals for supporting text and data mining (TDM), and proposals for reflecting AI-devised inventions in the patent systems (including potentially identifying AI systems as inventors).

ODI response

We published a draft of our response as an open document to get feedback, and to share our evidence and our thinking for others who might want to submit a response. Comments on the draft are now closed, but you can read it here.

We responded to the consultation with an open letter to the IPO (PDF)

We welcome the ambition of the IPO to strengthen data availability for AI systems, as well as data availability from AI systems, so that the value of this data for economy and society can be realised. But data availability must be trusted and trustworthy to be sustainable, and to avoid either data-hoarding or data-fearing futures. So we encourage the IPO to think strategically and holistically along the data value chain from stewarding data, to creating information with data, to deciding what to do with that information; and to think strategically and holistically about the role of IP interventions at each of these stages.

We think that the reforms outlined in the consultation represent a missed opportunity to think about these issues more holistically. We believe that for the government to fulfil its ambitions for the UK to be ‘one of the very best places in the world to live with, work with and develop AI’, data availability is only part of the equation: consideration must also be given to the assurance of that data, literacy around data use, the role of open models and open innovation in strengthening AI innovation, and the role of data institutions in governance of data for AI. In our consultation response we call on the IPO to work with the government to recognise that:

  • Reforms to the patent system should not reinforce existing concentrations of market power and access to data.
  • The IP regime shouldn’t disproportionately inhibit the development and use of open models in AI, which encourage innovation in the development of AI systems by allowing greater scrutiny and rigour.
  • Databases generated by AI systems should be properly assured for trustworthiness; and that the use of databases generated by AI systems is accompanied by strong data literacy for critical thinking about how that data has been generated and stewarded, and the questions that are asked of it, the models that are applied to it, or the use-cases to which the database is applied.
  • Strengthening ecosystems of data institutions can improve access to a wider range of relevant datasets for TDM, to mitigate risks of bias in datasets, while providing appropriate governance for use of that data.
  • Diverse organisations across a wide range of sectors should be supported to benefit from any relaxation of the law around TDM. This might include supporting data capabilities and infrastructure in sectors and domains that are comparatively behind in adoption of AI systems.

An IP regime that supports the development of AI systems in an open and trustworthy way will be vital to the delivery of the the government’s priorities around national digital and innovation goals as set out in the Innovation Strategy (BEIS), AI Strategy (BEIS), National Data Strategy (DCMS), and for delivery against the ambition of Plan for Growth (HMT) and the Integrated Review (Cabinet Office/FCDO) for the UK to be a global leader in digital technologies and AI.

Next steps

The consultation closed on Friday 7 January 2022 and the IPO is now reviewing responses. Please do read and engage with our response here. You can also reach the team on policy@theodi.org or @ODIHQ.