[OT] Re: Geoworks and their patent

Tyler Baker tyler at infinet.com
Wed Jan 26 21:52:31 GMT 2000

Bill dehOra wrote:

> :  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.

Well, what about companies in the business of patenting things which never have a solid
implementation behind the ideas as well as never ever producing a mature product from
those ideas. Does it really benefit innovation if someone manages to get some very broad
patent and never bothers marketing the product, but instead taxes any legitimate business
trying to market something truly innovative.

This entire Geoworks patent is a prime example of a company trying to put a sales tax on
other companies and in the end consumers. As far as I know from looking at their website,
Geoworks has never really done anything truly product related as they are in effect just
another software consulting company (much like what Unisys has become).

Geoworks might not kill phone computing but it might kill all of the efforts put into WAP
so far if the patent is upheld in court. Basically the people who came up with WAP would
have to start from scratch and try and create some other wireless application protocol
standard that does not infringe on some obscure patent hid away at the US Patent Office.

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