[OT] Re: Geoworks and their patent

Bill dehOra Wdehora at cromwellmedia.co.uk
Tue Jan 25 09:11:48 GMT 2000

:  I strongly object to the whole idea of patenting software, 
:  which uses the 
:  legal fiction of a metaphorical machine to get around the 
:  fact that they're 
:  really patenting ideas and algorithms in thin disguise. The 
:  LZW "method" is 
:  an algorithm, not a machine, and should be no more 
:  patentable than the 
:  binomial theorem, which could just as easily have been 
:  swathed in a cloak 
:  of "machine" frosting and sold to the highest bidder if our 
:  acquiescent 
:  patent office had been around to cozy up to at the time. Feh!

You might need to distinguish between an algorithm in the mathematical sense
and the implementation of an algorithm. One the great ideas of this century
is that you can separate the logic of a machine from its mechanical make-up.
The entire software industry is built on this idea.

Implementations of algorithms can be easily seen as machines, just because
it doesn't have gross moving parts doesn't make it not a machine. Would you
accept Amazon's one click patent if they used water driven gears and a
couple of Jacquard looms? 

If the binomial theorem appeared last week say, I don't see why it couldn't
be patented, if it was rephrased as an algorithmic process from which
machines can be built. It's good that the innovative and the daring be
rewarded with protection for their ideas. If anything patents drive
invention by forcing further innovation. People worry too much about
patents. The Shockley patent didn't exactly kill the electronics revolution.
Geoworks' patent won't kill phone computing.

:  The way to get rich off ideas is to have more of them and 
:  better ones, not 
:  throw up moribund fossil thoughts as a barrier to further 
:  innovation. IBM 
:  has one of the largest patent libraries in the world, which 
:  surely accounts 
:  for the fact that they're not exactly at the forefront of software 
:  development today. Having too many patents laying about is 
:  like hardening 
:  of the arteries; it will kill you sooner or later.

Interesting thesis but I don't think it holds up. 


Bill de hOra 

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