Monday 8 March 2021

U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Report: Patent Eligible Subject Matter Reform on the Horizon

The U.S. National Security Commission, chaired by Eric Schmidt, has released its final report, over 750 pages, titled, National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.  The Report outlines how the United States may be falling behind on certain artificial intelligence research, particularly compared to China.  The opening letter from the Chair states:

The AI competition is also a values competition. China’s domestic use of AI is a chilling precedent for anyone around the world who cherishes individual liberty. Its employment of AI as a tool of repression and surveillance—at home and, increasingly, abroad—is a powerful counterpoint to how we believe AI should be used. The AI future can be democratic, but we have learned enough about the power of technology to strengthen authoritarianism abroad and fuel extremism at home to know that we must not take for granted that future technology trends will reinforce rather than erode democracy. We must work with fellow democracies and the private sector to build privacy-protecting standards into AI technologies and advance democratic norms to guide AI uses so that democracies can responsibly use AI tools for national security purposes.

The Chair’s letter further provides numerous proposals for the United States, including White House level leadership, talent pipelines and chip manufacturing in the United States.  Surprisingly to me ,the Report only calls for a $40 billion investment initially in Artificial Intelligence research.  I wonder why the number is so low.  The Chair’s letter does note that they envision hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the future.  Notably, the Executive Summary points to a significant issue with United States policy:

Implement comprehensive intellectual property (IP) policies and regimes. The United States must recognize IP policy as a national security priority critical for preserving America’s leadership in AI and emerging technologies. This is especially important in light of China’s efforts to leverage and exploit IP policies. The United States lacks the comprehensive IP policies it needs for the AI era and is hindered by legal uncertainties in current U.S. patent eligibility and patentability doctrine. The U.S. government needs a plan to reform IP policies and regimes in ways that are designed to further national security priorities.

Chapter 12 is dedicated to intellectual property policy.  Some hot button issues for reform include: patent eligible subject matter, IP protection for data and the standard essential patent process.  Trade secrets may not do the job--especially with weak cybersecurity.  The Report also notes: “Lastly, as further evidence that China views IP as essential in its domestic economic development, China continues to pervasively steal American IP-protected technological advances through varied means like cyber hacking of businesses and research institutes, technological espionage, blackmail, and illicit technology transfer.”  The report also points to the need for cybersecurity improvements.  

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