Machines Inventing Machines: Artificial Intelligence and Patent Law with Robert A. McFarlane

In this episode we talk about artificial intelligence in the world of invention. My guest recently co-wrote an article for the Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Law about a recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that expounded on the principle that only human beings — not machines — can be named as inventors under U.S. patent law. The decision applies a straightforward interpretation of patent statutes, our guest says.

Beyond invention, what about that initial spark of innovation? What about the decision might make it difficult to obtain intellectual property protection for inventions generated by advanced AI systems? Isn’t AI kind of like using computer modeling? Don’t inventors already get considerable assistance from technology? What did the court say about all that?

Joining me to answer these questions is Robert A. McFarlane, an intellectual property litigator and registered patent attorney and partner with Hanson Bridgett LLP in San Francisco. Rob chairs the firm’s technology practice, co-chairs its IP practice, litigates and advises on a variety of IP matters in the U.S. and abroad, and teaches patent law at the University of California College of the Law San Francisco (formerly Hastings College of the Law). Rob earned his J.D. from the University of California College of Law San Francisco and his B.A.S. with departmental honors, in Industrial Engineering & Political Science from Stanford University.

I hope you enjoy the episode. I mean, we get to talk about everything from Tom Jefferson to monkeys with cameras.  That’s five-star material right there!


This podcast is the audio companion to the Journal of Emerging Issues in Litigation. The Journal is a collaborative project between HB Litigation Conferences and the vLex Fastcase legal research family, which includes Full Court Press, Law Street Media, and Docket Alarm.

If you have comments, ideas, or wish to participate, please drop me a note at

Tom Hagy
Litigation Enthusiast and
Host of the Emerging Litigation Podcast
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