Computer-Generated Inventions

32 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2018 Last revised: 18 Nov 2018

See all articles by Michael McLaughlin

Michael McLaughlin

American University Washington College of Law

Date Written: January 7, 2018


Technological advancements in artificial intelligence have threatened the axiom that conception, the mental part of invention, is a function exclusive to the human mind. Recently, machine learning technologies have allowed artificially intelligent computers to compose patent claims that amount to patentable subject matter. This technology is similarly used by innovators to optimize design configurations beyond the scope of human capacity. The type of patent protection to be afforded to computer-assisted and computer-generated inventions with minimal to no human intervention has yet to be determined. This article illuminates how such technological advances could wreak havoc on the patent legal system as it currently stands. It then offers a proposal for a legal standard that is supported by the philosophical justifications for property rights. The structure of this proposal is derived from the human creativity framework used to analyze the copyrightability of computer-generated works – paralleling the creativity standard to an intervention standard in the inventive process. Finally, this article provides a potential legislative and judicial framework for determining the amount of human intervention required to ensure protection against computer-assisted or computer-generated inventions.

Keywords: Patent Law, artificial intelligence, computer-generated inventions, computer-assisted inventions

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

McLaughlin, Michael, Computer-Generated Inventions (January 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Michael McLaughlin (Contact Author)

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

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