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26 July 2023 | Comment | Article by Tracey Singlehurst-Ward

Intellectual property and ChatGPT: How AI is impacting IP laws

The fast-developing world of artificial intelligence (AI) is making lawyers question how such virtual creations hold up within a legal framework developed to protect individuals’ intellectual property in the physical realm and the most recent trend of AI that everyone is talking about, ChatGPT, is bringing these issues back into focus.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI. It is essentially a language model which is trained on the masses of text data from sources all over the internet in order to generate human-like responses following a prompt or input text. This in turn can often make it very difficult to ascertain whether the content is in fact created by AI or by a human.

The model can understand and generate text in a conversational manner, making it suitable for tasks like answering questions, providing explanations, offering suggestions, and engaging in general conversation. Creative AI engines such as ChatGPT are able to create new images, text, video and audio and that begs the question of whether this is intellectual property, and if, so who owns the rights to it?

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, including inventions, artistic works, literary works, symbols, names, images, and designs, which are protected by various legal rights. It encompasses intangible assets that are the result of human creativity, innovation, and intellectual effort. Intellectual property is divided into different categories, each with its own set of legal protections, such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and industrial designs.

Existing UK Intellectual Property law grants legal rights to individuals or entities for their creations or inventions resulting from intellectual or creative activities. These rights provide exclusive control and protection over intangible assets, allowing the creators to benefit from their work and prevent others from unauthorized use or exploitation. Therefore, intellectual property rights are crucial for promoting innovation, encouraging creativity, and fostering economic growth.


The rapid improvement and development of AI generally poses problems for the law in trying to keep up. The potential intellectual property protection afforded to AI generated inventions is gaining attention all over the world. There are particular concerns over the extent to which creative industries will be affected by the increasing availability and speed that ChatGPT can produce material.

A balance needs to be struck between the development of AI technology and maintaining a robust system of intellectual property protection that respects creative interests.

Interestingly, in an attempt to catch up to the speed of development in AI, universities around the UK are incorporating the ‘ethical’ use of ChatGPT into their teaching and assessment methods. Students will be taught to use ChatGPT in a way that is not considered as cheating or plagiarising as universities have signed up to a set of principles to help ensure students are “AI literate” to make them more employable in the future. This is a strong indication of the anticipated impact that AI is going to have on the future.

Current UK government’s direction of travel is not yet clear and the extent of the task to develop a coherent legislative position that is pro-innovation is not to be underestimated.

If you have any questions regarding protection or exploitations of yours or another’s intellectual property, please contact a member of Hugh James’ Intellectual Property Team who would be happy to offer more guidance.

Author bio

Tracey Singlehurst-Ward


Tracey Singlehurst-Ward is a Partner in the firm and sits within the dispute resolution team. Tracey practises in general commercial and company disputes, and complements her strong core practice with specialist expertise in intellectual property, sports law, information law and privacy and media.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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