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Law Losing Ground to Tech

Prof. Tabrez Ebrahim

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is all around us. Just ask Siri, Alexa, or Watson!

Similarly, watch a movie and more often than not you will see props created by 3D printers, as filmmakers use modeling technology to create ever more realistic objects and characters.

AI and 3D printing are just two examples of data-centric technologies. Digitally founded, these technologies are blurring the digital and physical divide.

These data-centric technologies have crossed national borders and have rapidly attained adoption even while patent and copyright law have been slow to respond, writes California Western’s Professor Tabrez Ebrahim in a recent scholarly paper published in the Nova Law Review.

Ebrahim’s article focuses on 3D printing and AI technologies and their doctrinal disruptions through a two-by-two conceptual matrix formulation. That matrix demonstrates that patent law and copyright law definitions, scope, and standards should be evaluated in multiple domains, such as: (1) non-human in digital domain; (2) human in digital domain; (3) non-human in physical domain; and (4) human in physical domain.

This conceptual framework demonstrates that patent law and copyright law is multi-faceted and more complex than what may have been intended in their originations, writes Ebrahim.

Thus, the origination of patent law and copyright law in this conceptual framework is based on the past—without digital and without non-human aspects. However, present-day time has required patent law and copyright law to evaluate data-centric technologies with considerations of digital and non-human interpretations.

“Essentially, I’m using this matrix to show what was intended in these legal doctrines has changed and those intentions are no longer applicable in the increasingly non-human/digital domain of the present day,” says Ebrahim.

Looking forward, how this fast-developing technology will impact the future of patent law and copyright law, Ebrahim says that imprecise and unclear definitions, scope, and standards have challenged doctrines and resulted in litigation.

“Data-centric disputes will continue unless patent law and copyright law respond to embrace and better define the non-human and digital worlds, rather than remain tied to doctrinal concepts only in the human and physical worlds,” says Ebrahim.

According to Ebrahim, patent law and copyright law will need to prepare for a future where data-centric technologies will need more clarity and precision of non-human/digital considerations.

He proposes three considerations that he believes will impact incentives for inventors and creative authors, and in doing so, affect the breadth, pace, and scope of innovation in the advancement of data-centric technologies.

First, patent law and copyright law should not remain static but should anticipate the need to evolve.

Second, these laws should focus on non-human and digital considerations.

Third, these laws should also anticipate an increase in unique, future doctrinal disruptions not only in the non-human/digital domain but also in the human/digital domain and in the non-human/physical domain.

“Unclear boundaries and fenceposts will make innovators increasingly uncertain about the scope of legal protections that are provided by patent law and copyright law. Ideally, what innovators want and need is more predictability,” says Ebrahim.

Read Professor Ebrahim’s complete article here.