About This Blog

Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the law (primarily patent law). The blog also explores the implications of computer-automated inventing for creativity, ethics, and high-tech industry.

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The Genie in the Machine

The Genie in the Machine: How Computer-Automated Inventing is Revolutionizing Law and Business

Robert Plotkin
Published by Stanford University Press
May 2009
ISBN 978-0804756990

About the Book

We have long considered inventing to be a uniquely human activity. But just as the assembly line automated the process of manufacturing, today's computers are automating the process of inventing. Software can automatically generate designs for everything from toothbrushes to antennas to automobile frames more quickly and inexpensively than ever before, thereby ushering in a new era of artificial invention. Inventors will use artificial invention technology to boost their inventive abilities to previously undreamed-of heights, enabling small teams of inventors to compete with mega-corporations who insist on inventing the old-fashioned way. Even consumers will be able to use artificial invention technology to become inventors themselves. We stand poised to see the emergence of the "digital renaissance artisan"—a person who will have the ability to not only design new inventions at the touch of a button, but also to manufacture them automatically from the comfort of home.

Our decisions about these inventions today will dictate who gets to control this powerful technology tomorrow. Should inventions designed by software be patentable? Should the software that produces those designs be patentable? The Genie in the Machine offers the first-ever examination of the implications of artificial invention technology for patent law, the law of invention. Along with practical advice for inventors, high-tech companies, and patent lawyers, this forward-looking book provides concrete recommendations for reforming patent law in light of the growing importance of invention-automation technology.

Order The Genie in the Machine -- Available Now

The Genie in the Machine has been published by Stanford University Press and is available now through Amazon.com and other major booksellers.

For a sneak peek at the book's contents, you can read the full Introduction online at the Stanford University Press web site.

Praise for The Genie in the Machine

"The author uses easy-to-understand analogies that most lay readers will understand. [The Genie in the Machine is] recommended for committed readers in business, computer science, or law. "

- Judy Brink-Drescher, Library Journal


"This absorbing look at the democratizing advances in invention technology should capture the imagination of engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs."

- Publishers Weekly


"Plotkin's book demonstrates that computer-automated inventing is not an academic curiosity or fad, but rather a new way of inventing that will dominate the 21st Century and change how we invent—and how we think about inventing—forever."

- John Koza
Consulting Professor, Stanford University


The Genie in the Machine is a "great read" by a "leader in software law for the past decade."

- Dennis Crouch
Associate Professor, University of Missouri School of Law
Blogger, Patently-O (#1 blog on patent law)


"In this provocative and important book, Robert Plotkin offers a fascinating look at the future of invention. The Genie in the Machine belongs on every innovator's bookshelf."

- Daniel H. Pink
author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future


"We've entered the Artificial Invention Age, where programs can automatically synthesize new product designs given only a description of what's required. What's the invention here? Is it the new design? The program? The requirements? And which of these should be patentable? The Genie in the Machine lays out the choices for patent and invention policy with compelling clarity. It's an essential roadmap for anyone concerned with the future of innovation."

- Hal Abelson
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


"The Genie in the Machine provides brave and fascinating insights into the world of artificial innovation. It shows that artificial innovation is real, it is here, it is working -- and it will redefine how we all understand and perceive innovation. A real eye-opener."

- Sion Balass
CEO, Matrix Advanced Solutions Ltd.


The Genie in the Machine "is highly recommended for anyone in the patent and innovation fields, and if one is a technologist he should absolutely read this book. The book will change the way you view the future of technology and invention!"

- P.P. Ramachandran
Free Press Journal (India)


The Genie in the Machine is "a fascinating study" of artificial inventing.

- Organiser (India)


Attendees of Robert Plotkin's talks say:

  • The talk was excellent and provided insights into a new era of invention.
  • Extremely interesting and well presented -- I will be buying The Genie in the Machine.

Press/Publications

"Stakeholders Revisit Bilski Oral Argument, Predict a Reasoned Decision by High Court," Tony Dutra, BNA's Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, Vol. 79, No. 1944, December 4, 2009.

"Technology Firms Watch Patent Case with Supreme Interest," John Letzing, CBS MarketWatch, November 9, 2009.

"Inventing by Programming," D. Murali, The Hindu Business Line, September 21, 2009.

"A Patent for the Proverbial Genie," Bala Murali Krishna, ExpressBuzz, September 27, 2009.

"Re: Bilski -- The End of Software Patents?," David Worthington, Software Development Times, July 8, 2009.

"Supreme Court Ruling in Bilski Case Has Huge Implications for Software Patents," interview on "Create the Dream!".

"Why Wishes Should be Patentable," Robert Plotkin, guest blog entry on IPWatchdog.

"New Book Asks How Patent Laws Should Apply to Automatically-Produced Inventions," Jim Singer, IP Spotlight blog, June 15, 2009.

"Dusting Off a Big Idea in Hard Times," Reena Jana, BusinessWeek, June 11, 2009.

Guest blogger on Stephen Rosenberg's Boston ERISA & Insurance Litigation Blog, June 12 - July 3 (Fridays). First three entries here, here, and here.

"Can You Patent Something Invented by a Machine?," audio interview of Robert Plotkin by Rich Stim, Dear Rich: Nolo's Patent, Copyright & Trademark Blog, June 11, 2009.

"Rise of the Machines," Robert Plotkin, Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 10, 2009.

"New Book Explores Promises of 'Artificial Invention'," BNA's Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, June 5, 2009.

"The Automation of Invention," cover story in the July/August issue of The Futurist.

"Instant Genius," Lissa Harris, Technology Review, May/June 2009.

Frequently-Asked Questions

Click here for a list of frequently-asked questions about The Genie in the Machine.

Videos About Invention Automation

A series of videos of Robert Plotkin, author of The Genie in the Machine, discussing invention automation and its implications is now available for viewing online. To book Robert Plotkin to speak to your organization, click here.

About the Author

Robert Plotkin is a patent lawyer specializing in patent protection for computer technology, with an emphasis on software patents. His clients range from individual inventors to Fortune 50 companies. He is a Lecturer at the Boston University School of Law and has written and spoken internationally on patent protection for software, computer ethics, freedom of expression in software source code, and electronic privacy. He is the founder of Robert Plotkin, P.C. in Burlington, Massachusetts, which has been named a "Go-To Law Firm for Leading Technology Companies" by American Lawyer Media.