A draft new Intellectual Property (“IP”) Law of Saudi Arabia, which was open for public comment from 4 April -5 May this year, may be one of the first IP laws in the Middle East region to include IP created by Artificial Intelligence (“AI”). Together with the release of other laws in Saudi Arabia, they seek to support Saudi’s vision notably those related to the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority's (“SDAIA’) strategy objectives on “maximizing data and AI’s contribution to realizing the objectives of Vision 2030, ensuring that all government entities make greater use of data and AI and promoting the Kingdom's image as a global leader in the field of data and AI.”
The growing emphasis on developing a robust legal landscape for AI integration is driven by the recognition that this transformative technology touches upon numerous legal aspects, these legal considerations include privacy and data protection laws, commercial considerations, intellectual property rights, as well as a general understanding of the technicality of AI, such as data management and machine learning.
The implementation of AI-friendly regulation has been prominently displayed in various countries in recent years. Just a few days ago, the UK Intellectual Property Office took a significant step by inviting industry representatives to collaborate on the draft of the UK Code of Practice on copyright. The EU Commission also introduced a regulatory proposal in 2021, aiming to address the legal implications of AI across the European Union. Singapore's National AI strategy also outlines the key areas for regulating AI in order to maximize the positive economic impact.
Saudi Arabia proposed IP law includes a chapter devoted to "Intellectual Property associated with Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies and Supporting its Promotion". The chapter discusses the key principles of AI and IP protection, stating that any IP created using AI technology will be protectable, and that the IP will be held by the natural person who contributed to its creation.
The chapter goes on to discuss, the significance of the contribution to the AI-generated intellectual property. The Law states that, "In the event that the contribution of the natural person was insignificant or that the IP was generated by artificial intelligence independently of the person", the IP will enter the public domain. Stated differently, any creation devoid of significant human contribution will not be protectable, and therefore cannot be owned by any natural person. The question as to what qualifies as “significant” is left open. As with most subjective requirements in IP, such “significance” is likely to become a heavily debated topic.
The chapter concludes with mention of financial sponsorship, which comes at no surprise as the Kingdom confirms its efforts to become a leader in AI, and a hub for advanced technology. The law provides that "IP inventions associated with emerging and advanced modern technologies or aided with AI shall be financially sponsored”. Additionally, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) may also provide for an accelerated path for examination and prosecution of such inventions.
The new Law meets the main objectives of SAIP in enhancing the national economy competitiveness to become a central hub for innovation and new technologies by establishing a supportive legal environment, Saudi Arabia seeks to attract investments, promote innovation, and ensure the effective regulation of AI technologies.
The recent interest in IP in the Kingdom has witnessed growth in all areas. Of note in SAIP’s 2022 annual report, patent applications increased by 46.70%, copyrights increased by 30.33%, trademarks by 5.66%, and integrated circuits and industrial designs increased by 35% and 7.71%, respectively, when compared to 2021.
The draft KSA IP law has many other interesting aspects, more of which will be discussed in future articles. For further information relating to intellectual property in Saudi Arabia, please contact the authors.
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Further Bird & Bird articles:
 The draft prepared by SAIP Saudi authority for intellectual property after the crown prince announces IP strategy last year: https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/4057626/saudi-crown-prince-launches-national-intellectual-property-strategy