Using Interactive Inventions

50 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2020 Last revised: 6 Apr 2020

See all articles by W. Keith Robinson

W. Keith Robinson

Wake Forest University School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2019


Interactive inventions are systems and processes that can be used by multiple actors at the same time. Many interactive inventions are the product of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things that allow billions of everyday devices to communicate with each other via the Internet. Other interactive inventions are prevalent in the emerging fields of personalized medicine and FinTech (new financial technologies). Unfortunately, the law concerning how to determine liability when a patent directed to an interactive invention is infringed is dissonant across classes of inventions. Specifically, what it means to “use” an interactive system is different from what it means to “use” an interactive method. Why does the law treat these acts differently? Should it?

This Article attempts to answer these important questions. Specifically, this Article contends that the current framework for what it means to “use” an interactive system is problematic. Interactive inventions are different than traditional method and system inventions. Unfortunately, courts have too often applied, especially in recent cases involving interactive systems, an outmoded framework to interactive inventions. When interactive inventions are analyzed under the proper framework, it allows for the application of sound legal principles to solve multi-actor liability problems. Specifically, this Article argues that a direct infringer “uses” an interactive system when it controls the system and obtains a benefit from it. This approach is also more consistent with the recently broadened standard for infringement of interactive methods.

Keywords: patent, intellectual property, internet of things

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Walter Keith, Using Interactive Inventions (March 1, 2019). 69 DePaul L. Rev. 95 (2019), SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 465, Available at SSRN: or

Walter Keith Robinson (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
3367582230 (Phone)
3367584496 (Fax)

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