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Gov’t considers classifying smart AI as “trade secrets”

  • November 7, 2016
  • , Nikkei , p. 15
  • JMH Translation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is indispensable for the Internet of Things (IoT), but difficult to protect under patent and copyright regulations. Efforts are currently underway to protect smart AI that has already been programmed with massive amounts of data by classifying it as “trade secrets.”


Professor Toshiya Watanabe of the University of Tokyo explains that the intellectual property protection laws should apply to smart AI. However, this type of AI is typically made up of a collection of functions and matrices that are difficult to categorize either as an invention to be protected by a patent or a program to be protected by intellectual property laws.


Protecting AI with patents would likely be disadvantageous for Japan, as it would prevent Japanese corporations from catching up with more advanced American counterparts.


An expert on intellectual property law says that the best way to protect smart AI is by classifying it as trade secrets. If AI is used in a project that involves two or more companies, it should be protected by contracts between the corporations based on the Unfair Competition Prevention Act.


A number of committees have been formed recently within various government agencies, including the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to study how to protect AI. They aim to identify issues with current corporate practices concerning the protection of trade secrets and contracts between companies in order to reinforce relevant laws. (Abridged)

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