Summary of Dr Ros Lynch's keynote

Opening the second day of Conference – with a day theme of ‘our workplaces’– Dr Ros Lynch of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) took us expertlyon a tour of the challenges facing those who regulate and ‘police’the intellectual property (IP) world in a time of rapid technologicalchange.

Dr Ros LynchAt the outset, Dr Lynch stressed that the main task of copyright oversight remained trying to balance the rights of IP holders with user access.

Dr Lynch first took Conference through a brief history of copyright and trademarks to give context to the current debates and the pace of change. Drawing on the Gartner ‘Hope Cycles’ model, she explained that technology practitioners traditionally had to ride waves of inflated expectations and troughs of depression before it became clear how a new process could be deployed widely and productively. The advent of 3D printing, Blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) – among others and also yet-to-come technologies – should be seen in this light. They generate new opportunities and problems.

One example of a positive use of AI was the deployment of optical character recognition by Roma Tre University to decipher the Vatican Secret Archive. Also, the possibility that it could be deployed to speed up the process of trade-marking. An example of a problem was the thorny question of whether AI, eg an algorithm, can claim copyright or can a machine be a joint author? Also, can the use of AI also infringe on rights? And what about the ethics of all this and the possibility that AI could access personal data? Blockchain - lists of records (blocks) that are linked using cryptography – adds another level of complexity.

Dr Lynch pointed to a possible WIPO role in looking at cross-border (ie international standards) in some of these matters and a June conference of experts that the UK IPO had convened to explore how to approach such challenges. On the immediate horizon, there was the new EU Digital Single Market copyright directive, likely to come into force in June 2020. The overarching driver of the DSM was guaranteeing a fair share for rights holders in the digital age, for example from material appearing on the internet. It remained unclear what the level of UK engagement with the DSM would be – much would depend on the terms on which the UK left the EU in October 2019.

In the wider context of Brexit, Dr Lynch pointed delegates towards guidance and technical notes that the IPO has produced (and was continuing to produce). In terms of contingency planning, the IPO was gearing up for the possibility of having to import huge amounts of data on day one, for example on trademarks. The office was also developing policy for including IP protections in future trade agreements. She added that a new AI Office – set up jointly by the UK Culture and Business departments – was looking specifically at ethics and policy in the AI space.