Over the years, movies and TV series have driven our imaginations of the versions of AI. Whether it was Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Samantha from the movie Her, Chitti from Endhiran or G.One from the Hindi movie- Ra. One, or simply every episode of the Black Mirror, the infinite possibilities with AI never cease to amaze and scare us. Given the development of technology, the reality of AI capabilities seems to be inching towards what we have seen in countless movies for decades. Today, every aspect of our daily lives is touched by AI. From our mobile phones, our cars, our washing machines and even our insulin delivery can now be managed by AI applications. Interestingly, even the World Intellectual property Organization has launched an AI-powered assistance tool to help classify images under the Vienna Classification.

WIPO and AI:

Unsurprisingly and inevitably, Intellectual Property rights and laws are greatly impacted by the accelerating advancement of AI and its applications. As accurately summarized by WIPO, “Until very recently that innovation and creation was one of the defining characteristics of the human species” However, the machine learning and deep learning capabilities of AI have led IP laws and frameworks into an abyss of uncertainty and are deficient, to say the least.

WIPO has led the efforts in analysing the impact of AI on IP and the need to amend legal frameworks to include the technological advancements. It established a dedicated forum- WIPO Conversation on Intellectual Property (IP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2019 to allow discussion and debate on the impact that AI would have on the existing IP framework. While AI application can be beneficial in IP management and administration, its protection under the current IP framework is rather unclear. There have been multiple conversations held by WIPO that included member states and stakeholders to debate and analyse the AI trends and their impacts on IP.

Conflicts between AI and IP:

It is certain that AI application can bring numerous benefits and advancement to the IP arena. However, there is a flip side to it due to the conflicts that would arise in the existing framework. AI is capable of being an innovator and creator of IP as already evidenced by the various artworks, patents and musical works created by AI machines, the conflict of ownership and infringement by AI poses a dilemma. While the implication of AI on trademarks can be relatively quantified and analysed, the implication of AI-created IP on Patents, Designs and Copyrights is a hotbed of questions yet to be answered. Where IP rights are linked directly to ownership, would AI be the first right holder of the subject matter (be it a design, a work in which copyright subsists or an invention) it creates? For instance, not long ago, the question of whether AI can be an inventor was answered in the negative by IP systems including the UK, USA and European Union due to the designation of an AI system – “DABUS” as the inventor.  Would law allow recognition of AI as a legal person? Could an AI machine be sued for infringement of another’s IP rights or would it be the creator of the AI that would be vicarious liable?

Another instance of AI being the creator of IP arose with the AI-generated painting “The Next Rembrandt”. In this instance, could the AI system hold the copyright for it or would the more appropriate question be, would copyright be required for an AI-generated work? We will explore some of these questions in our subsequent posts.

Would AI make IP laws nugatory?

There is no better way to summarize what the rise of AI machines as creators of IP would mean than this quote from Star Trek: Insurrection which states “when you create a machine to do the work of a man, you take something away from the man” The question is, would IP rights be what would be taken away?