We have interviewed the winners of the 2022 IP Research Awards

28 April 2023

We have interviewed the three winners of the 2022 IP Research Awards competition hosted by 4iP Council. We are thrilled to show, not only the papers of these brilliant young professionals, but also their views and inspiration to tackle such important topics.

Find below the winning papers and their authors, who have been kind to give us a bit more time to answer some questions about themselves.


1st Place: Gabriele Montanari 

2.pngThe GitHub Copilot Case - Going from Software Protection to Artificial Intelligence Authorship 

Gabriele Montanari graduated in Law at the University of Trento in 2022. The title of his final paper was "Micro-directives and the Personalization of the Law of Torts: The Future of Negligence". 

Shortly after graduation, he felt a strong desire to pursue further all matters related to the turbulent relationship between law and technology. For that reason, he enrolled in the LL.M. in Law of Internet Technology at Bocconi University. 

Attending this program, he had the chance to get a better understanding of his own passion for IP, a subject he started studying during his Erasmus at Maynooth University. On this same note, the 4iP Council Research Awards were his occasion to write on a topic he cares for deeply. In the next years, he will work to bring his own contribution to lessen the negative impact that AI will have (and is having) on the lives of creatives and creators. But still acknowledging the positive effects of this kind of innovation. 

*Please note that the following questions for Gabriele Montanari, who authored a paper regarding Artificial Intelligence, were created with the assistance of ChatGPT. 

1. What first piqued your interest in writing about copyright? 

My interest in copyright arises from how deeply it is intertwined with the hidden aspects of the human mind. On one hand, discourses on copyright force us to assess whether something is creative or not. On the other, whether a certain creation is actually fruit of the free choices of a human being. These textbook definitions are only apparently simple, since they imply complex decisions on the very nature of our inner processes. 

2. How does the recent class-action lawsuit highlight the current legal challenges surrounding AI and Copyright? 

The recent class-action lawsuit against GitHub Copilot is just one example of the challenging relationship that AIs and Copyright are developing. This particular case highlights how the open-source ecosystem could be severely damaged by unchecked AI training on licensed material. Even if some programmers welcome the advantages brought by AIs, we still have no full knowledge on how much the world of computer engineering will change. 

3. Apart from authoring law-related articles, do you engage in any other creative pursuits or activities? 

In my free time I enjoy writing fiction as a hobby. Even if it is not my main occupation, creating stories and worlds is always enticing. On top of that, it is a refreshing way to give form to my personal thoughts and feelings. A couple of years ago, one of my short stories (under pseudonym) was published in a collection by a small publisher. 

4. Could you share your thoughts on the concept of AI authorship and the potential implications it may have on the creative industry as a whole? 

As a creative person, I cannot hide that I am worried by the fast progress of AI authorship. I did not expect to see an AI writing an entire (and coherent) book this early in my life. Current AIs are not able of real creativity, but what they are capable of looks scarily similar to it. Even if we have to keep in mind that the current hype around ChatGPT is probably overblown, we still have to consider what will be the next future. Certainly, new kind of automations and shortcuts will become the norm. What we have to do is understand how these tools can help us, without forgetting that these neural networks are only capable of reasoning by association. Having written all of this, I still find myself thinking that the next times I will go to a cinema, I will be asking myself whether the bad writing is AI or human generated. 


2nd Place: Franziska Kaiser 

1.pngBatman Forever? How trademarks affect Reuse 

Franziska Kaiser is a Ph.D. candidate at HEC Lausanne, University of Lausanne (Switzerland). Her research interests range from the economics of digitization, innovation, and IP rights to platforms. Before starting her Ph.D., Franziska worked as a Research Fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. She holds a degree in economics from Humboldt University Berlin. 

1. Having a management and business background, how important do you believe it is for individuals to develop a better understanding of Intellectual Property Rights?

I think it is essential that individuals lean more about the various kinds of IP rights. Most people who do not deal with IP rights on a daily basis are not aware of the different types and scopes. This may be especially interesting to people who want to start their own business and build a brand.  

2. What led you to write about the impact of trademarks within the comic industry? 

Comics are a special cultural industry as comic characters are often not only protected by copyright but additionally by trademarks. Comics appear in different types of media, which also makes them very valuable. So, in order to produce a new comic blockbuster not just the copyright of the comic character needs to be licensed but also the trademarks surrounding the character. This gives us an idea of how IP right owners may affect the comic world.

3. What challenges have you faced in compiling the unique dataset used in your study?  

Matching the different data sources was a big challenge and took a long time. However, drawing on so many different online sources, enabled us to see a broad picture of which comic characters are trademarked and are reused in which kind of media. This is what makes our data set unique.

4. How do you perceive the future of the comic industry?

I expect the comic industry to continue growing in the future. However, it is currently very much concentrated when looking at the underlying firm structure of IP right owners. We find in our study that reuse of third parties may be limited if comic characters are not only protected by copyright but also by trademarks. To allow for an even greater variety and more creativity, well-functioning licensing markets are needed. Apart from that, comic characters may see a "resurrect of rights" as soon as their copyright term ends and firms may want to file trademark applications for these characters. Here, the scope of the different kinds of IP rights needs to be cleared from the legal point of view. 


3rd Place: Simon Van Mierlo

3.pngPatent Eligibility of Computer-Implemented Inventions at the European Patent Office

Simon Van Mierlo is currently employed as a trainee Patent Attorney at EP&C Patent Attorneys in Belgium. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Antwerp and an MSc. degree in Intellectual Property and Knowledge Management (IPKM) from the University of Maastricht. Simon has been fascinated by the complex legislation for protecting software/computer-implemented inventions at the European Patent Office. His IPKM master thesis, as well as his contribution for the 4iP Council Research Awards, are on this topic. He is continuing to develop his knowledge in this field and applying that knowledge in practice for his clients. 

1. How would you define “invention”? 

An invention for me is an instruction to a skilled person how to solve a technical problem. 

2. Why don’t you tell us very briefly what’s the issue that your paper brings up and your suggestion? (in a simple way, so everyone understands) 

The issue is that computer-implemented processes often do not solve any technical problem, but rather are situated in non-technical domains, serving for example purely commercial purposes. The EPO does not currently distinguish between technical and non-technical computer-implemented processes for the purpose of determining whether they are an invention: any computer-implemented process is called an invention. I argue that it would be beneficial if the EPC would distinguish between inventions and non-inventions, also for computer-implemented processes. 

3. When did you start being interested in the legislation for protecting software/computer-implemented inventions and why? 

When I started as a trainee patent attorney, I quickly became interested in the patentability of computer-implemented inventions because of my background in computer science. 

4. How did you come up with the idea for your paper? 

When reading recent decision G1/19 of the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO, I became inspired to delve more into the history of patentability of computer-implemented inventions at the EPO and how the legislation and/or case-law may evolve in the future. 

5. In what direction would you like your professional career to move? 

I want to pass the EQE to become a qualified European patent attorney and assist clients in protecting their inventions, with a focus on computer-implemented inventions. 


The 2023 Awards are Open! If you would like to participate on the next 4iP Council IP Research Awards, visit this page for more information on how to apply.