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19th March, 2018

Dr Luke McDonagh and Dr Enrico Bonadio are the UK legal leads for EU-funded Horizon2020 Interactive Robotics Consortium

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The Senior Lecturers in The City Law School are the lead investigators on intellectual property on the INBOTS (Inclusive Robotics for a Better Society) project, which brings together experts from academia and industry to debate and create a responsible research and innovation paradigm for robotics.

Dr Luke McDonagh and Dr Enrico Bonadio, Senior Lecturers at The City Law School, are the lead intellectual property law investigators within the EU-funded, Horizon2020 INBOTS (Inclusive Robotics for a Better Society) Consortium.

The INBOTS CSA consortium, centred at the Cajal Institute in Spain, brings together 25 partners from 12 different countries on the basis of multidisciplinary expertise and trans-nationality. City, University of London is one of these partners, and is one of only two partners, the other being the University of Leeds, based in the UK. INBOTS aims to create a community hub bringing together experts to debate and develop a responsible research and innovation paradigm for interactive robotics – or robots that “interact in close proximity with humans”, such as those used in the fields of smart prosthetics, exoskeletons and robot workers.

The project, which began work in January 2018, provides a platform for a working synergy between four pillars covering stakeholders in Interactive Robotics: technical expertise; business expertise; ethical, legal and socioeconomic expertise – and end-users, policy makers and the general public.

Dr McDonagh and Dr Bonadio are specialists in IP law. They will be co-ordinating discussion and debates surrounding a range of issues concerning interactive robots and intellectual property.

These include: evaluating patenting of robotic technologies, including issues of knowledge transfer and university social innovation; investigating the role of interactive robots in new creations such as novel inventions and original copyright works; and preparing advice on IP protection for SMEs working in the field of robotics.

The final outcome will result in the coordination and support of actions aimed at building bridges between these pillars to promote debate and create a responsible research and innovation paradigm that will offer substantial leadership in the field of robotics.

It is also aimed at accelerating technology transfer, regulation and legislation in this burgeoning field.

Commenting on his participation in such a wide-ranging international consortium, Dr McDonagh said:

“It is a hugely exciting project. New robotics technologies are on the cusp of transforming the way our society functions from the inside out. In the coming decades this shift will become visible in many respects: from they way things are built at manufacturing plants, to the provision of social care and assisted living, to the development of new prosthetic limbs, to robot-assisted invention and creativity in the field of the arts. As part of this project, the challenge is to consider what role the law should play in regulating how these developments occur and to try to ensure the law does not become a barrier to innovation.”

Also speaking about his role in the project, Dr Bonadio said:

Acquisition and wise management of IP rights such as patents, industrial secrets, designs, copyright and trade marks are crucial for companies in the robotics field. While patenting, industrial secrets and copyright are important for supporting the specialisation of these firms and recouping investments, trade mark and design rights also give such companies the tool to protect robots’ appearance and brands, and thus play a relevant role in enhancing their marketability.

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