UK Government ‘call for views on AI & IP’ response – Patents

AA Thornton’s AI experts contributed to the UK government review of artificial intelligence and intellectual property and have been monitoring developments. Mike Jennings and LLoyd Palmer provide this summary of recent government progress

The UK Government has published the responses it received to its 2020 “Call for views on AI and IP” and published its analysis and proposed next steps. The report reiterates the UK Government’s appetite for promoting innovation in AI.

The patent section of the “call for views” looked at the role of patents in encouraging AI innovation and the role of AI in the innovation process, and sought recommendations for progress on AI protection. We applaud the initiative and the Government’s ambitions for the UK to be a leader in AI technology.

The patent section of the report is available here. The report provides Government responses on areas covered by the call for views and the intellectual property office is proposing several actions based on the evidence collected and as part of its broader strategy on IP and AI. A brief summary of the patent report is set out below.


Aims of the patent system

The UKIPO noted that most respondents believe an effective and balanced patent system is the best way to incentivise development of AI in the UK, as it is in other technical fields.


AI as an inventor

The UK government mentioned the mixed views of respondents to its “call for views”, and acknowledged that AI systems are having an increasing impact on the innovation process. They stated their desire to ensure the intellectual property systems support and incentivise AI generated innovation, and to ensure transparency and to ensure that inventorship criteria do not present a barrier to protecting investment in AI generated innovation. They propose to consult on a range of possible policy options, including the possibility of legislative change, for protecting AI generated inventions which would otherwise not meet inventorship criteria. Our previous article on this topic can be found here.


Conditions for grant of  a patent

The UK government noted the benefit of international harmonisation (to avoid a burden on applicants) and acknowledged the need for more clarity and predictability for patent application outcomes. They summarised the views of respondents, noting that some respondents suggest the need for a review of the extent to which patents stimulate AI innovation but also noting a “common view … that UK IPO should change its practice on patent exclusion” (with many respondents favouring the EPO approach).

The UK government committed to these actions:

  • “publish enhanced IPO guidelines on patent exclusion practice for AI inventions and engage AI interested sectors, including SMEs, and the patent attorney profession to enhance understanding of UK patent exclusion practice and AI inventions. The IPO will review its patent practice in preparation for the guidelines and establish any difference in outcome for AI patent applications filed at the IPO and EPO

  • commission an economic study to enhance our understanding of the role the IP framework plays in incentivising investment in AI alongside other factors. This will draw together the international evidence. Additionally, engage with other government departments to gather emerging data and understanding of the drivers of the AI sector in the UK context. This will provide an evidence base on which to judge whether there is a rationale for further intervention in the area

  • work with stakeholders and international partners to establish the feasibility, costs and benefits of a deposit system for data used to train AI systems disclosed within patent applications”


We applaud the plan to publish enhanced guidelines, and we will be happy to work with industry and the UKIPO to contribute to their development. There is an important role for industry and the patent profession in helping the UKIPO with this work. There is also a need for the UKIPO and IP5 offices to work closely with WIPO to achieve a harmonised approach.



Regarding infringement, the UK government provided this brief comment:

“The current practice of “legal persons” being liable for infringement appears to be in keeping with most respondents’ views. Many of the problems proving patent infringement by AI already exist when trying to prove patent infringement with other technologies.

We consider that in respect of “AI patents” the courts have appropriate flexibility to make decisions based on the facts of the case. And that claimants are able to use court processes to support their actions. Therefore, we do not currently intend to intervene in this area”


Continuing the conversation

We congratulate the UKIPO and UK government for its consultation and prompt review of responses. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

More information about the UK Governments ‘call for views on AI and IP” response is available here .

If you’d like to discuss this topic, please contact either of the writers, or another member of our Patent team.

Category: Latest Insights | Author: Mike Jennings, Lloyd Palmer | Published: | Read more