Opinion

Reaping the benefits of artificial intelligence

By Sally Mewies

- Last updated on GMT

Mewies: 'As AI gets more advanced, it may begin to create new ideas. Who would own the intellectual property rights in new inventions created solely by AI?'
Mewies: 'As AI gets more advanced, it may begin to create new ideas. Who would own the intellectual property rights in new inventions created solely by AI?'

Related tags: AI

New opportunities are emerging at an unprecedented rate to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in order to optimise processes in food production and while the benefits are often very clear, there are legal bear traps for the unwary.

Security and food safety

Many factories are introducing ‘smart’ machinery, taking advantage of the benefits that robots on the production line, connected devices and predicative maintenance offer. However, ‘smart’ devices require an internet connection – and anything with an internet connection can be hacked, potentially leading to data loss or comprising the safety of the final product.

Who bears contractual responsibility in this event? You? The supplier? The AI itself? There is no clear answer to this, but in our view the responsibility for the actions of a ‘smart’ device will likely lie with the operator.

We eventually see the law automatically placing liability on the supplier in certain circumstances, such as where it fails to ensure that its algorithms are free from bias or discrimination.

Intellectual property and data

The optimisations AI can lead towards are the product of the data that the machine has learnt from. For the AI tool to tell your business how to optimise its production process or reduce its wastage, first you too must hand over valuable information.

The AI’s learnings can now be applied to your business but the AI tool now has another data point: yours. And there is nothing to stop its owner going to a competitor of yours and teaching it efficiencies based on its newly expanded (thanks to your business) pool of data.

How can we stop data spreading to competitors?! How do you share the gains fairly between the two organisations? These are issues that must be documented carefully in your contracts as the current law does not yet provide a clear answer.

As AI gets more advanced, it may begin to create new ideas – recipes or methods of production – requiring less and less human input to do so. Who would own the intellectual property rights in new inventions created solely by AI?

The legal community is still carefully considering the ownership of IP developed by non-humans, but early-adopters of these technologies should be contemplating the ownership question and documenting it in their contracts now.

In the UK, the regulatory issues surrounding AI are still being debated and different bodies have different views. Some believe regulation is urgently needed, whilst others consider that the technology needs to be more widely deployed before rules dictating its use can be drafted. What is clear, though, is the need to take a holistic approach.

The legal implications of AI cannot be looked at in silos – for instance only from a data protection perspective or only from an antitrust perspective – any regulation of AI must be reviewed as a whole and the risks and benefits carefully weighed.

This is particularly true for the use of AI technologies in the food manufacturing industry where consumer safety is at stake. It may be too early to build laws controlling AI tools used to manufacture consumer goods, but the consequences of AI getting it wrong could be highly damaging and result in the industry rejecting AI completely, despite its many benefits.

Until the law does catch up, make sure to read the small print on security policies, adhere to best practice information management processes and document agreed terms clearly with suppliers.

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