Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)

Robotics has been used for decades to automate human activities, whether in product manufacturing or in household appliances. While robots were previously only mechanical, they have recently been combined with artificial intelligence (AI); in other words, with computer systems that carry out activities normally requiring human intelligence. A good example of this is artificial speech recognition.


This provides many opportunities in the field of IP, whether as intelligent support for a patent application or when searching for brand logos that already exist. Nevertheless, this also poses new challenges for the existing IP system, such as how to protect objects of art created with the help of AI.


Whether such a creation can be protected at all by copyright needs clarification, while questions concerning the ownership of what has been created also arise with regard to patent law. Is it possible for an inventor to foresee what the AI will do? Who is then the holder of the IP rights? Can AI actually be a legal entity? Could this even lead to the creation of an ‘electronic person’ (similar to a legal or natural person)?


An IPI project group is examining these questions. You can find more information about the group’s work here.


Sources/further reading:


IPI project on artificial intelligence and intellectual property

Artificial intelligence (AI) methods are increasingly influencing creative and innovative processes. This raises new questions about intellectual property. Can we accept AI systems as inventors? And should we? To what extent does copyright apply to AI-generated works, such as pictures generated based on a text description? Or do we still need intellectual property rights as a form of incentive if artificial intelligence can produce inventions and artworks simply with electricity?


These and various other questions are now being discussed in international forums too. To actively contribute to the debate, the IPI started a joint project with the Center for Intellectual Property and Competition Law (CIPCO) at the University of Zurich in 2020 that is dedicated to the topic of ‘artificial intelligence and intellectual property’.


The first part took place in 2020–2022. It comprised three online workshops with speakers from universities, industry, and trade mark and patent offices. A fourth workshop at the University of Zurich in June 2022 examined the topics in greater depth. The following documentation has already been produced:


Recordings of the online workshops on the intellectual property framework conditions for AI


First workshop of 11 June 2021 ‘Status Quo and Outlook’ with

  • Ryan Abbott, Professor of Law and Health Science at University of Surrey

  • Kate Gaudry, Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

  • Daryl Lim, Professor of Law at University of Illinois Chicago

  • Peter R. Thomson, Manager Global IP Litigation & Transactions at Novartis

  • Beat Weibel, Head of the Intellectual Property Department of Siemens AG,

  • Hansueli Stamm, Chief Economist, Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property





Second workshop of 13 September 2021 ‘Technical and Economic Background’ with

  • Martin Bader, Professor for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at University of Applied Science Ingolstadt

  • Alessandor Curioni, VP Europe and Africa and Director IBM Research

  • Alica Daly, Senior Policy Officer for Artificial Intelligence and Data at WIPO

  • Naomi Häfner, Assistant Professor of Technology Management at University of St. Gallen

  • Michael Schroeder, Analytics, ML & Data Science Expert at ERNI





Third workshop of 10 January 2022 ‘Policy and Legal Design’ with

  • Trina Ha, Director of Legal, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore

  • Pierre Oliviere, Head of Futures Strategy, UK Intellectual Property Office

  • Gaétan de Rassenfosse, Associate Professor in Science & Technology Policy at EPFL (Lausanne, Switzerland)

  • Abraham Bernstein, Professor of Informatics at University of Zurich

  • Heli Pihlajamaa, Director at European Patent Office

  • Ulrike Till, Director IP and Frontier Technologies Division at WIPO




A core document that summarises current knowledge of the topic:


Picht, Peter Georg; Brunner, Valerie; Schmid, Rena (2022): Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Law: From Diagnosis to Action. Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 22-08.


A detailed report on the results of the workshops:


Schmid, Rena (2022): Zurich AI & IP Conference Report. Bern: IPI.


A summary of the workshops in the November 2022 edition of the journal sic!:


Schmid, Rena (2022): Artificial intelligence & intellectual property Workshop. In sic! 11.2022.


A discussion paper on the results of the workshop of June 2022 in the form of policy and research recommendations.


The IPI will continue the project in a second phase (2022–2025). Plans for this phase include three core studies on the topics of ‘Software protection and artificial intelligence’, ‘Generative art and the motivating effect of copyright’ and ‘The effect of inventions generated by artificial intelligence on the patent system’. This second phase is to conclude with a workshop in 2025.