Artificial intelligence in the military and Pakistan’s IP

16 September 2020

Artificial intelligence in the military and Pakistan’s IP

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has established a Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Computing (CENTAIC), its in-house unit for the research and development of AI for military purposes.

CENTAIC aims to tap major fields of artificial intelligence (AI) for its research. Machine learning, deep learning, big data, predictive analytics and natural language processing may be among them.

These areas are useful for air warfare including drone development. AI is also critical in realizing PAF’s ambitions regarding its fleet of next-generation fighter aircraft. These include its stealth fighter jets and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The government of Pakistan is taking a keen interest in the field of AI,” said Sana Shaikh Fikree, senior associate at Vellani & Vellani in Karachi. “With an effective roadmap in place, Pakistan may gain prominence in certain areas of AI.”

CENTAIC, she said, may be instrumental in achieving Pakistan’s prominence in big data, machine learning, deep learning and other component areas of AI.

However, some challenges lie ahead where protection of intellectual property is concerned.

AI, for one, is not considered a patentable invention under the Patent Law of Pakistan.

“In particular, the current law of patent lacks provisions with regard to patentability of algorithms, computational and mathematical methods. In fact, the law includes barring provisions with regard to the patentability of discovery, scientific theory and mathematical methods,” Fikree explained.

Pakistan’s copyright law presents another hurdle. While it recognizes software and codes as literary works, the copyright law per se does not protect ideas and inventive concepts unless the same have been translated into some form of expression.

Thus, Pakistan’s patent and copyright laws should be amended, according to Fikree.

Additionally, the PAF should have adequate policies in place to protect its IP.

“It will be necessary for the PAF to have a comprehensive strategy in place with regard to protection of their IP rights, where applicable and to whatever extent possible, in AI,” she said.

“Second, it will be necessary to have in place, and to ensure full implementation of, trade secret policies and technical know-how.  Such policies could form part of engagement arrangements to ensure full compliance with such polices.  In the event of sharing data with business partners and external collaborators, stringent non-disclosure agreement should be executed.” 

“It will also be critical to properly document relevant technological information which may assist in establishing ownership with respect to technical know-how should any conflict arises,” Fikree said.

Aside from using AI for its military operations, PAF also intends for CENTAIC to utilize AI for civilian purposes.

The creation of CENTAIC is just one of several AI initiatives rolled out in Pakistan. The government, in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission, earmarked Rs. 1.1 billion (US$ 6 million) to launch various AI projects around the country. Six public sector universities have been selected to build nine laboratories dedicated to AI research. 


Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Law firms

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