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UK IP minister moves on but questions remain over AI comments


George Freeman claimed he had left office when now-binned AI proposals were first made, despite his resignation actually coming more than a week later

UK intellectual property minister George Freeman has been moved to a newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, it was confirmed today, February 7, amid confusion over comments he made in Parliament last week.

The new department is expected to cover IP, though the exact nature of the brief had not been confirmed at the time of publication. Michelle Donelan will head the department as secretary of state while Freeman will continue in a junior ministerial position.

Meanwhile, Freeman has failed to clarify remarks he made in parliament on Wednesday, February 1, when the government announced it would not be pursuing part of the UKIPO’s artificial intelligence proposals.

Freeman claimed he was not in office when the now-dropped policy for a copyright exemption for text and data mining (TDM) purposes was published.

The Mid Norfolk member of Parliament was minister for IP until his resignation from Boris Johnson’s government on July 7 2022. But the UKIPO actually first published its TDM proposals more than a week earlier on June 28.

Freeman, who was subsequently reinstated as IP minister in October, told the House of Commons last Wednesday that the policy would not go ahead due to strong opposition from the creative industries.

He also appeared to criticise the process that led to the proposal being put forward.

“I hasten to say that they were published after I left government, and it was a period of some turmoil. One of the lessons from this is to try not to legislate in periods of political turmoil,” he added.

Managing IP contacted both Freeman’s parliamentary office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for clarification on the remarks but has yet to receive a response.

Freeman was a minister at BEIS until the cabinet reshuffle this morning.

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Kaushal Choonee is a patent attorney at Elekta in the UK