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Northwestern University School of Law




The conception of Frankenstein’s monster bridges the ever-narrowing divide between man and machine. Long before Congress codified Section 33(a) of the America Invents Act (“AIA”), Mary Shelley’s vague description of the monster’s creation has left people wondering: what defines a human organism? Through an analysis of patent law and scientific progress in the development of artificial organ systems, this paper explores the boundaries of patentable subject matter in the United States and attempts to clarify Congress’s determination that “no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism.” Though patent law should incentivize development of artificial human tissues and organs, Section 33(a) of the AIA stands to limit scientific progress. Either judicial or legislative action must clarify the term “human organism” to balance the need for artificial organ development, while hindering unethical scientific development of artificial humans.

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