G7 digital and tech ministers discuss AI, data flows, digital infrastructure, standards, and more

On 29-30 April 2023, G7 digital and tech ministers met in Takasaki, Japan, to discuss a wide range of digital policy topics, from data governance and artificial intelligence (AI), to digital infrastructure and competition. The outcomes of the meeting – which was also attended by representatives of India, Indonesia, Ukraine, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, the International Telecommunication Union, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, UN, and the World Bank Group – include a ministerial declaration and several action plans and commitments to be endorsed at the upcoming G7 Hiroshima Summit.

During the meeting, G7 digital and tech ministers committed to strengthening cooperation on cross-border data flows, and operationalising Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) through an Institutional Arrangement for Partnership (IAP). IAP, expected to be launched in the coming months, is dedicated to ‘bringing governments and stakeholders together to operationalise DFFT through principles-based, solutions-oriented, evidence-based, multistakeholder, and cross-sectoral cooperation’. According to the ministers, focus areas for IAP should include data location, regulatory cooperation, trusted government access to data, and data sharing.

The ministers further noted the importance of enhancing the security and resilience of digital infrastructures. In this regard, they have committed to strengthening cooperation – within G7 and with like-minded partners – to support and enhance network resilience through measures such as ensuring and extending secure and resilient routes of submarine cables. Moreover, the group endorsed the G7 Vision of the future network in the Beyond 5G/6G era, and is committed to enhancing cooperation on research, development, and international standards setting towards building digital infrastructure for the 2030s and beyond. These commitments are also reflected in a G7 Action Plan for building a secure and resilient digital infrastructure

In addition to expressing a commitment to promoting an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet, G7 ministers condemned government-imposed internet shutdowns and network restrictions. When it comes to global digital governance processes, the ministers expressed support for the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as the ‘leading multistakeholder forum for Internet policy discussions’ and have proposed that the upcoming Global Digital Compact reinforce, build on, and contribute to the success of the IGF and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process. Also included in the internet governance section is a commitment to protecting democratic institutions and values from foreign threats, including foreign information manipulation and interference, disinformation and other forms of foreign malign activity. These issues are further detailed in an accompanying G7 Action Plan for open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet

On matters related to emerging and disruptive technologies, the ministers acknowledged the need for ‘agile, more distributed, and multistakeholder governance and legal frameworks, designed for operationalising the principles of the rule of law, due process, democracy, and respect for human rights, while harnessing the opportunities for innovation’. They also called for the development of sustainable supply chains and agreed to continue discussions on developing collective approaches to immersive technologies such as the metaverse

With AI high on the meeting agenda, the ministers have stressed the importance of international discussions on AI governance and interoperability between AI governance frameworks, and expressed support for the development of tools for trustworthy AI (e.g. (non)regulatory frameworks, technical standards, assurance techniques) through multistakeholder international organisations. The role of technical standards in building trustworthy AI and in fostering interoperability across AI governance frameworks was highlighted both in the ministerial declaration and in the G7 Action Plan for promoting global interoperability between tools for trustworthy AI

When it comes to AI policies and regulations, the ministers noted that these should be human-centric, based on democratic values, risk-based, and forward-looking. The opportunities and challenges of generative AI technologies were also tackled, as ministers announced plans to convene future discussions on issues such as governance, safeguarding intellectual property rights, promoting transparency, and addressing disinformation. 

On matters of digital competition, the declaration highlights the importance of both using existing competition enforcement tools and developing and implementing new or updated competition policy or regulatory frameworks ‘to address issues caused by entrenched market power, promote competition, and stimulate innovation’. A summit related to digital competition for competition authorities and policymakers is planned for the fall of 2023.

European Patent Office publishes patent insight report on quantum computing

The European Patent Office (EPO) has published a patent insight report on quantum computing. The report provides an overview of quantum computing at large, while also looking at issues such as physical realisations of quantum computing, quantum error correction and mitigation, and technologies related to quantum computing and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

One of the report’s key findings is that the number of inventions in the field of quantum computing has multiplied over the last decade. In addition, quantum computing inventions show a higher growth rate than in all fields of technology in general. The above-average share of international patent applications in quantum computing suggests high economic expectations related to the technology.

Getty Images Sues Stable Diffusion AI image generator for copyright infringement 

In the High Court of Justice in London, Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against Stability AI for allegedly infringing the intellectual property rights of millions of images from its platform, which Stability AI used to train its AI image generator, Stable Diffusion. According to the lawsuit, Stability AI violated several of Getty Image’s Terms of Service, such as image scraping used to train its AI image generator.

Getty Image is alleging that Stability AI has unlawfully copied and processed images from its website without obtaining a license for their commercial exploitation, including copyright in content that belongs to or is represented by Getty Images.

Previously in September, as was then reported, Getty Images banned AI-generated content on its platform, including images produced by Stable Diffusion, fearing possible (future) copyright lawsuits.

Class action lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt over intellectual property infringement

Three artists have launched a class action lawsuit in San Francisco, USA against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, creators of artificial intelligence (AI) art generators, alleging intellectual property rights infringements.

The artists argue that the producers of AI art generators violated the copyrights of millions of users by scraping the web to train their art algorithms without getting approval from content owners or giving credit or compensation. As such, they are seeking damages as well as an injunction to prevent future harm from the AI tools in question.

The lawsuit alleges direct copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement related to forgeries, violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), violation of class members’ rights of publicity, unlawful competition, and a breach of terms of service.

Belarus allows parallel imports and digital piracy

A new law approved by the Belarusian parliament allows the use of digital content without the copyright owners’ consent when such holders reside in ‘unfriendly countries’ that have placed sanctions on Belarus. While the measure enables the use of software, films, music, television programmes, and other audiovisual works without copyright permission, royalties still need to be paid for such uses. The funds are to be deposited into the account of the Belarusian Patent Office, where copyright holders would be able to claim them within three years.

The law also permits parallel imports, a process in which authentic goods are brought in through alternative supply lines without the intellectual property owners’ consent. This measure applies to imports from any country, if the concerned goods are included in a list of products deemed as essential for the internal market.

The legislation is to apply until the end of 2024.

Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI open source coding assistant sued for alleged copyright violation

A proposed class action in California challenges Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI for alleged copyright violation around GitHub Copilot, an artificial intelligence (AI) powered open source code generating assistant. The lawsuit alleges that Copilot is trained on public repositories of code extracted from the web, some of which is licensed content. While the case is in the initial stages, and the defendants will argue that their use of code qualifies as fair use under US copyright law, the outcome of this lawsuit may have significant consequences for the future of generative AI.

The UK to be excluded from participating in EU Horizon calls in quantum

The EU moved to exclude the UK from Horizon Europe calls on sensitive quantum projects due to doubts over the UK`s eagerness to provide EU researchers with access to UK quantum programmes and to comply with intellectual property rules.

Initially, the European Commission decided to open up 2021–2022 calls to certain UK entities if they gave reassurances they would protect EU strategic interests, assets, autonomy and security, and respected reciprocity and intellectual property conditions. After assessing the proposals submitted by the UK, the EU has excluded quantum technologies companies that applied to take part.

‘Despite earlier statements from the UK side, when the moment of verification came, the EU realised that these reciprocity conditions were not on the table, and we got to the point where the Commission was not seeing enough evidence for an inclusion’, said Tommaso Calarco, director of the Institute for Quantum Control in Jülich, and one of the coordinators of the Quantum Flagship, a multi-billion EU Commission research initiative.

Italian football club Juventus won NFT trademark dispute

The Italian football club Juventus won one of the first known judgements by a European court regarding non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and their clash with early registered trademarks. The Court of Rome determined that Blockeras violated Juventus’ trademark rights by printing and distributing 68 NFT cards.

Juventus filed a lawsuit against Blockeras earlier this year, accusing the fantasy football game platform of infringing its trademarks through NFTs linked to trading cards featuring former Juventus superstar Christian Vieri in a Juventus jersey.

Juventus has requested a temporary restraining order to stop the allegedly infringing conduct. Blockeras has claimed that the football club’s marks protection in class 9 from Nice Classification does not cover NFTs.

The court found that it is unnecessary for NFTs to be mentioned precisely in the list of goods of Nice Classification because other included goods can also cover new digital products.

Meta won trademark lawsuit over Infinity Logo

A federal judge in California dismissed blockchain platform Dfinity Foundation’s trademark lawsuit over the infinity-symbol logo against Meta Platforms Inc. The judge ruled that the two logos were not similar enough to sustain the lawsuit, and given the targeted audience, it is unlikely to create any confusion among consumers.

In a trademark infringement lawsuit, Dfinity alleged that Meta copied its infinity-symbol logo, which was similar to the one used by Dfinity.

The court found that Meta’s logo was not likely to cause consumer confusion with Dfinity’s rainbow infinity logo as it is not similar either in shape or colour to Meta’s log.

The UK Intellectual Property Enterprise Court Guide

The UK Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, which handles cases relating to intellectual property disputes, has issued a detailed guide for businesses, lawyers, and attorneys on how to bring a case to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. The guide covers how the court’s processes function and offers recommendations where necessary, including how to:

  • start a claim in the court
  • serve the claim form
  • write a statement of the case
  • put together a trial bundle