The Spectre of the Machine: Finding Space for Empirical Inventions in Patent Law


The spectre of the machine and the mechanical jurisprudence that accompanies it have dominated patent law for over a century. This article offers three examples where we can see the influence of the figure of the machine in patent law: in the way the history of organic chemistry has been viewed, in the way that the law first interacted with biological inventions, and finally in the way that many commentators think about AI-machine generated inventions. I end by offering a different way of thinking about inventions that allows us to move beyond the spectre of the machine to give space for more speculative empirical inventions.