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UK rules that AI cannot patent inventions

Government plans to tweak laws to make UK a ‘global artificial intelligence superpower’

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 29 June 2022 11:34 BST
The UK government announced on 28 June, 2022, that it will ‘promote the use of AI technology’
The UK government announced on 28 June, 2022, that it will ‘promote the use of AI technology’ (Getty Images)

The UK government has announced that artificial intelligence algorithms that come up with new technologies will not be able to patent their inventions.

The Intellectual Property Office said on Tuesday that it also plans to tweak existing laws to make it easier for people and institutions to use AI, machine learning and data mining software in order to rapidly advance research and innovation without requiring extensive permissions from copyright owners.

It forms part of the UK’s 10-year plan to transform the country into a “global AI superpower” through its National AI Strategy announced last year.

The update aims to “take advantage” of the UK’s newfound ability to set its own copyright laws since leaving the European Union.

“Now that the UK has the ability to set our own copyright laws for the first time in decades, we want to ensure the UK continues to have one of the best intellectual property frameworks in the world,” said science and innovation minister George Freeman.

“Our new UK rules on copyright and data mining will act as a catalyst for our innovators to flourish, helping ensure the UK’s IP system remains a powerful enabler for ground-breaking research and development.”

The announcement was welcomed by David Prosser, an executive director at Research Libraries UK, who said it would allow researchers to take advantage of powerful new AI and data mining techniques.

“The proposed changes to copyright announced today will allow us to harness the potential of new, innovative computational tools and significantly advance UK research and innovation,” he said.

The decision to not allow AI to patent inventions comes after a ruling at the Court of Appeal last year that said an artificial intelligence system should not be recognised as an inventor.

“Only a person can have rights – a machine cannot,” Lady Justice Laing wrote in her judgement. “A patent is a statutory right and it can only be granted to a person.”

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