Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is calling on Congress to pass an internet user privacy standard as a first step toward making sure Americans are knowledgeable and their data safe amid the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Blackburn is one of four Republicans on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property (IP). The panel is holding a hearing Wednesday afternoon titled, “Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property – Part I: Patents, Innovation, and Competition.”
“We’re going to look at it from the IP angle because when you watch what China is doing, and how they are pushing people from around the globe to come to China and file their patents with AI, different applications and uses. And they have filed right at 1.6 million applications. That’s more than double the number that had been filed in the US…on AI uses,” she said. “We shouldn’t let this issue sit out there without going further into the threat that it’s going to create for our U.S. innovators.”
The senator was referring to statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that show China filed more patents than both the U.S. and Europe in 2021, more than 1.5 million. China has also filed nearly 75% of the world’s total number of AI patents in the last decade.
However, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has for years been accused of intellectual property theft of Americans — an effort Blackburn worries will only more advanced with AI.
“I know that it’s a source of aggravation for many of our innovators — whether they’re in the consumables market or after-market auto parts, or you know, auto electric vehicle component parts or music,” Blackburn said. “The thing is, a lot of people don’t know that they’re pirated until somebody sends something in for repair, and they realize they didn’t make this… It is something that is an infringed patent or copyright.”
Asked about what steps Congress could take to safeguard Americans’ IP, particularly as China’s AI capabilities grow more advanced, Blackburn suggested lawmakers start with ensuring user data are safe online.
“I think the first thing we’re going to have to do is pass an online consumer privacy protection standard. That law needs to be passed,” she said. “You’re going to have to give the individual the right to protect their information online and to hold it out of that open source, be able to firewall their information and their use in the virtual space.”
“Secondly, there’s going to have to be a discussion, and we’ll do more of this, how you handle the patent copyright issue. Because our law doesn’t cover those that are generated through technology. They cover those that are filed by humans. So we’ve got to figure that component out,” Blackburn added.
The AI and intellectual property hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. this afternoon. Senators are scheduled to hear from tech policy experts as well as executives from Google and Novartis.