Can one protect Artificial Intelligence?

Headerbillede: Ociacia / Shutterstock
BY: LARS KARNØE, HEAD OF LEGAL, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW

Once, it was just an interesting idea of intelligent networks. Now, more and more companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) in their operations, which raises big questions and legal considerations: Can one protect artificial intelligence? Who owns the data? How do we deal with copyright if the machine has made the masterpiece?

As IP consultants, we experience an increased interest in the protection of the constantly changing digital tools that we all use. In particular, the legal protection of abstract sizes such as AI can seem difficult to grasp. Nevertheless, the concept falls under the same legal framework as traditional software, which means that AI can be protected by either copyright or patent.

The computer is not the “author”

The basic idea behind copyright law is to encourage individuals with good ideas to create something that benefits society.

In practice, having copyright means that the originator, who created a work, is rewarded with the exclusive rights to exploit it commercially and build a business around it.

With the current legislation, this “reward” is only given to man-made works. This requirement makes it impossible to assign copyright to works generated by a computer using artificial intelligence. Thus, a computer cannot be an “author”. Further, the computer’s creation cannot be termed a “work” in the sense of copyright.

The individual, who has encoded the algorithm underlying the computer’s creation, has no copyright to the creation either. However, the individual can have copyright to the specific program and the way the computer processes data input.

In short, others can copy a creation produced by a computer without infringing on a copyright. It is however possible that the computer program behind the creation is protected, just as the employed database may be.

Exclusive rights to databases

AI and the associated machine learning require large amounts of data. Therefore, one needs access to one or more databases.

Legislation on databases is harmonized at EU-level. It entails that the individual, who, through a special effort and/or through financial investment, creates a database, has the exclusive rights to this database for 15 years.

The exclusive rights protect the database from commercial use of the entire database or parts of it.

If you have not created a database yourself, you must have a clear agreement with the holder of the rights before you make use of a database for machine learning.

AI is patentable

With its ability to act on prior experience, AI resembles an abstract size. However, legislation in the area can thus far easily accommodate digital developments like these.

AI falls within the legal framework that applies to the protection of traditional software. Therefore, in addition to copyright protection, it is possible to patent the programs in which artificial intelligence is involved.

A good example of patented AI can be found at the Danish firm Cercare Medical. They have obtained a patent for their program Cercare Medical Neurosuite, which is a program that helps physicians analyze brain scan images based on algorithmic artificial intelligence.

For more information on Cercare Medical, please see the article below.