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Session Summary: The Law and Policy of the Internet of Things

Submitted by W. Keith Robinson

On Friday morning, August 2nd, the SEALS annual meeting featured a panel titles “The Law and Policy of the Internet of Things.”

The panel was moderated by Fazal Kahn, Professor at the University of Georgia Law School.

The panel featured presentations from Professors Elif Kauvusturan, Esq. and Michael Lee Rustad, both from Suffolk University Law School, Professor Thomas H. Koenig from Northeastern University School of Law and Professor W. Keith Robinson from the SMU Dedman School of Law.

Professor Koenig’s presentation explored the Internet of Things through a sociological lens. Specifically, professor Koenig discussed how his research on the sociology of tort reform could be applied to the IoT ecosystem. He argued that IoT providers are using contract law to cannibalize tort remedies for consumers.

Professor Rustad argued that products liability can be extended to address injury or death cases caused by autonomous vehicles. The nature of defect and damages may need to be accommodated to address cybersecurity intrusions, the invasion of privacy, and other injuries or damages caused by defective software components. Professor Rustad also argued against the need for sui generis laws to address harm caused by autonomous vehicles.

Professor Robinson discussed the challenges innovators faced in acquiring IoT patents and enforcing those patents against alleged infringers. Professor Robinson argued that the current legal test for patentability will exclude inventions that apply IoT technology to pre Internet business practices. In addition, Professor Robinson explained that the current law regarding infringement liability may open a larger number of third parties to infringement liability.

Finally, Professor Kauvusturan discussed recent developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence and inventorship. She informed the audience that on August 1st, two patent applications had been filed naming artificial intelligence as the inventor. Professor Kauvusturan discussed possible ways in which the USPTO and European Patent Office could handle these applications and the broader implications for global patent policy.

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