Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

Director General Gurry: Fast-Paced Artificial Intelligence Developments Pose Policy Challenges

May 28, 2019

The rapid pace of technological development in the artificial intelligence (AI) sector is throwing up profound questions at a faster rate than the development of capacity for considered policy responses, WIPO Director General Gurry said on Tuesday.

In an opening address to the “AI for Good Global Summit,” Mr. Gurry noted findings contained in the WIPO Technology Trends 2019 – Artificial Intelligence Report showing that 340,000 patent applications related to AI have been filed since the 1950s – with more than 50 percent of those filings registered since 2013.

(Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

So it appears that the intellectual property system, which was in many respects born out of the industrial revolution, does have widespread application, or is being used on a widespread basis, to artificial intelligence technologies.

Francis Gurry, Director General

The rapid proliferation of AI technology is prompting an array of important questions, he told participants at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)-hosted event in Geneva.

“Artificial intelligence is one of the most important of the technologies that are currently transforming our economy and society. There are economic questions that are thrown up concerning markets and competition, labor and employment, security, trade. There are social questions thrown up concerning personal data, the protection of personal data, the integrity of personal data and fake news. There are ethical questions that are arising concerning bias in data and the commitment of decision-making capacity to non-human entities, decisions that affect human welfare,” Mr. Gurry said.

“In relation to all of these, we are at an extremely early stage, but the common characteristic is that the underlying technological activity which is provoking the question is occurring at a much more rapid speed than our capacity to formulate … the responses to the questions,” he added.

AI data ownership

The ownership of the data that underlies AI applications – data as property – is one critical area of concern, the Director General noted.

WIPO Member States will focus on the property aspect of AI during the “WIPO Conversation on Intellectual Property and Artificial Intelligence,” on September 27, 2019.

“We hope that this will make a contribution to the multiplicity of questions of a policy nature that is arising,” he said of the WIPO meeting.