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Red Hat Files Amicus Brief In Bilski Patent Case

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the shut-'em-down dept.

Patents 219

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Red Hat has filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court in regards to the In Re Bilski case, which has become incredibly important due to the possibility that it could redefine the scope of patentable subject matter in a way that affects software patents. In the brief, Red Hat argues that software should not be considered patentable subject matter because it causes economic harm due to patents being granted with vague subject matter, which makes it impossible to say that a given piece of software doesn't arguably infringe upon someone's patent. They also point out Knuth's famous quote that you can't differentiate between 'numeric' and 'non-numeric' algorithms, because numbers are no different from other kinds of precise information." Read below for the submitter's thoughts on an earlier amicus brief filed in the Bilski case by Professor Lee Hollaar.
It's a pity, though, that they don't seem to directly address Professor Lee Hollaar's brief that gave a hand-waving excuse about the Curry-Howard correspondence being merely 'cosmetic' (whatever that means), even though you can turn ZFC into a program (ZFC being the axiomatic framework in which almost all math is done) and you can turn programs into math in order to verify them. Of course, this is the guy who called the successor function 'essentially nonsense', presumably because he doesn't think that mathematicians can differentiate between assignment and equality the way computer scientists can.

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Nigger by Choice (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617593)

HOW TO BE A WORTHLESS, VILE, AMERICAN YARD-APE!!!!
  • Slink around, shuffling your feet and bobbing your neck like the lazy retard you are.
  • Walk down the middle of the street because you don't know what a sidewalk is for.
  • Hang out at carwashes and mini-marts because everybody knows these are the best places to be a dope, I mean dope.
  • If you're a nigger bitch, shit three nigger babies into the world before 17 years of age. This assures that welfare money will support you, so your nigger men have more time to commit crimes.
  • And give REAL honest black people a bad name.
  • Oh yes, make sure each nigger baby has a different father.
  • Bastardize the English language in the name of nigger culture.
  • Make sure that several terms have multiple meanings and others have ambiguous meanings and that only 50% of nigger words are even complete words. Real niggers will know what you're trying to say.
  • As a culture, make sure there are always more blacks in prison than in college at any given time.
  • Hang out in packs of 10 to 15 and make sure everyone acts as annoying as possible. This helps to promote nigger individuality.
  • Always talk loud enough so everyone in the 'hood can fucking hear you, and if they are niggers, they will know what your saying, bro.
  • Wear clothes that are 10 sizes too big, making sure the pants hang off your ass.
  • Park at least 5 junk cars in your yard while being careful not to use the driveway. It's OK to abandon them in the street as long as it's in front of someone else's crib.
  • Exaggerate every motion, every tonal inflection and grab your dick a lot.
  • Do drugs, sell drugs, make drugs. Okay, don't REALLY do this, but it IS what niggers do.
  • Turn your backyard into a junk yard. If you don't have a backyard, turn your mother's into a junk yard.
  • Travel around leaching off relatives, friends, salvation armies.
  • Drink cheap wine and malt liquor every day, forgetting that "malt liquor" is just fortified cheap beer.
  • If you're a nigger buck: fuck anything that moves, no matter how ugly she is. After two 40oz, even the ugliest, fattest nigger bitch will look good.
  • Be charitable and covet fat, ugly white chicks. After all, they're niggers too. They can't help being so undesirable to white men that they have to fraternize with black dudes on a 20/20 trip. And white ho's are a special trophy too, especially the not so ugly ones.
  • Spray paint everything in sight with scribbles that mean nothing to white people but mean things to fellow niggers (except niggers from another hood who will probably go after you for tresspassing on their turf).
  • Use the term "motherfucker" in every sentence. It's one of the most versatile words in the nigger language, being a noun, verb, adjective and complete mini-sentence in event you run out of thoughts.
  • Stop in the middle of the street, blocking all traffic to converse with fellow niggers and have complete disregard for everyone else.
  • Overcharge customers at Taco Bell and pocket the difference.
  • Drive your car while slouched so low that you can barely see over the wheel (gangsta drivin').
  • Get a job under affirmative action. Then sit around all day pretending that you earned the position and that the other co-workers respect you. Whenever you fuck up, scream "racism!" & hope you get enough Generation X liberals in the jury.
  • Never, I mean NEVER, take any responsibility for your actions. Always blame others including Asians, Latinos, Mexicans, and especially Whites for your sorry ass stupid lives.
  • Be sure to get a dog, tie it up in the cold and mud and neglect it until it dies. Then start all over again. Cash must be used because you long ago fucked up your credit and checking account.
  • Cram 5 generations into a two room government apartment and still be able to neglect your kids.

Then you too can be a true nigger, and anyone who finds any fault with anything you do is automatically a racist. They don't dislike what you do and wish you would do something better with your life, nor do they wish you would realize that other people exist and should be treated with respect. No, they're just racists who hate you because of the color of your skin, and everything bad in your life is their fault. You nigger.

Re:Nigger by Choice (0, Offtopic)

timberwolf753 (1064802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618013)

Wow did not take too long for a troll to come on by. Come on down to the Troll is Wrong.

I think (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617599)

I'll go buy a copy of Red Hat.

Re:I think (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618061)

Maybe I should try Red Hat. I've tried using Linux in Ubuntu form and eventually gave up because I work for computers all day, when I'm at home I want computers to work for me.

Re:I think (0, Offtopic)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618095)

What do you do at home?
If it's game, don't bother. Yes I can jump through hoops and get some games to work, but like you I prefer my home system do what I want with little fuss. Ironically, that means Windows.

As much as people hate to hear it, the Windows OS is pretty good these days.
Of course, MS as a company sucks ass. If they would stop trying to be the abby sitters for the media companies and pull out DRM, I suspect it would be an awesome OS.

Re:I think (0, Troll)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618187)

If they would stop trying to be the abby sitters for the media companies and pull out DRM, I suspect it would be an awesome OS.

What exactly is the DRM in Win7 or Vista disallowing you from doing? Now before you say anything about not being able to do this or that with your Blu-Rays or HD DVDs, you must remember that without the DRM you wouldn't be able to do anything with those formats on your computer at all.

Re:I think (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618479)

Here's a thought. What if MS refused to put in any DRM for BluRay. Now Sony (owners of BluRay) have a few choices. Don't let people using Windows use BluRay. Which may be a good idea, People don't need super high def on a computer screen, if they want hi-def, they can go buy a set top box. BluRay encryption would have been better protected without any ability to play it on computers. Or, build some software BluRay player for windows that either used a USB dongle to do the decoding, so that they keys never existed in software at all, and Windows wouldn't need support for any special DRM modules in and of itself.

Re:I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618551)

I can't do anything at all with those formats on my computer anyway, so please tell me why I should care about whatever point you are trying to make?

Re:I think (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618589)

Without the DRM, you'd be able to do EVERYTHING with those formats. Microsoft has capitulated to entertainment industry demands to put tilt bits and crap like that throughout it's infrastructure so it can tell if there's any kind of bus sniffing or anything going on in order to get a license to be able to play that media.

You seem to be under the impression that the DRM in Blu-Ray's and HD-DVD's is a good thing. It's not. It has royally screwed up the infrastructure of Windows, and made your computer less of your computer and more one that's only allowed to do what some company says it can do. Even if you never play a single Blu-Ray disc, you still have to deal with the bullshit drivers that make Creative sound cards useless. Isn't that awesome?

Re:I think (1)

caladine (1290184) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618869)

Even if you never play a single Blu-Ray disc, you still have to deal with the bullshit drivers that make Creative sound cards useless.

Oh, that's what made them useless!

Re:I think (3, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618611)

Now before you say anything about not being able to do this or that with your Blu-Rays or HD DVDs, you must remember that without the DRM you wouldn't be able to do anything with those formats on your computer at all.

And without the police conducting random searches, beating protesters, and generally treating everyone as if they were already criminal, we wouldn't have the freedom we currently enjoy. Freedom is a gift, given to you by those in control.

Re:I think (0, Offtopic)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618301)

Funny the DRM in Windows 7 / Vista doesn't appear to be stopping me from doing anything. What has it stopped you from doing?

Re:I think (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618609)

Record American Gladiators.

Re:I think (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618619)

Just because it hasn't stopped you from doing anything doesn't mean that it hasn't affected other people [boingboing.net] . DRM is simply saying "fuck you" to the consumer, telling them that they have less of a right to do things on their computer than the media companies do.

Re:I think (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618375)

As much as people hate to hear it, the Windows OS is pretty good these days.
Of course, MS as a company sucks ass. If they would stop trying to be the abby sitters for the media companies and pull out DRM, I suspect it would be an awesome OS.

Windows has the most applications. It is not the best by most any other measure. The APIs are horrible, the security architecture is a house of cards, and it's still too easy for a single application to go crazy and freeze the system -- either because your game crashes and the video card can't be reset, or some system resource locks and then the application zombifies and brings everything to its knees in short order, or one of a dozen other failure conditions that are the result of poor programming.

But it's what everybody knows and uses so we'll overlook all of those problems.

Re:I think (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618419)

RHEL is a very different beast to Ubuntu.

Firstly, it is aimed at the Server market unlike the desktop (Ubuntu)
It is aimed at stabilty and longevity.
Therefore even in the latest version (5.4) some of the versions are somewhat behind that used in Ubuntu.

Give it a try but be prepared to encounter some differences over Ubuntu.

after the CentOS debacle, pardon my disenthusiasm (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618867)

This is the company that used every means at its disposal to try and shut down, discourage, or stall the WhiteBox and CentOS projects. It was so absurd that the CentOS people had to refer to RedHat as "prominent north american vendor" in a press release explaining they'd been hassled [centos.org] .

I understand that Red Hat was within their rights to protect their trademark, but they could have been much more pleasant about it.

Copyrighted. (2, Funny)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617611)

for(int cnt = 1; cnt do_stuffs();

original code, do not steal!!!!

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617681)

Seeing as that doesn't compile, I wouldn't be too worried.

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617707)

for(int cnt = 1; cnt < y; cnt++)
do_stuffs();
do'h stupid Slashdot and formatting.

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618645)

for (int cnt=1; cnt < y; cnt++)
do_stuffs();

Try the <code> tag. It works ;)

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618843)

Would this infringe?

for(int i = 1; i < y; do_stuffs() && cnt++) { ; }

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617719)

oh one-letter vowels, how you change context to make me snicker....

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617749)

I don't think I am aware of any non-one-letter vowels. Please enlighten me.

Re:Copyrighted. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617773)

Æ

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617863)

Æ

This is also known as the fonzie constant.

(Point both thumbs up and say "eyyyyyyy")

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618925)

Diphthongs.

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617827)

I'm shocked and appalled that you are discriminating against two letter vowels

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617915)

You are missing a parenthesis.

for (int cnt = 1; cnt do_stuffs());

Did I infringe on your code, improve it or just open myself open to a lawsuit in a thousand ways?

Re:Copyrighted. (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618027)

It was suppose to be a < and I used the keyboard version of my own stupidity, Funny joke gone wrong. Beside you are still missing a 3rd part of your for loop.

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618533)

Its called Typer Shark -
http://www.popcap.com/games/free/typershark

Re:Copyrighted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618627)

Copyright is not a patent.

It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617709)

In some ways, CS is still tied to mathematics. It is quantifiable and therein lies its only true link to mathematics. The development and study of algorithms is what CS is all about, and to the extent that mathematics can be used to measure these things it is useful.

But real world development is much more like seatbelt manufacturing than number crunching. Systems must be developed, not algorithms. In fact, algorithms, for the most part, are already done. It's the combination of these disparate parts into a cohesive whole that is the cornerstone of CS in today's industry.

So when someone develops a way of doing something electronically that is novel, it should be just as worthy of receiving a patent as another idea that needs physical implementation. The milieu shouldn't matter.

What does matter is the quality of the idea and the quality of the process to determine the validity of the patent application. This is where the problem lies today. It's not that people shouldn't get patents for software, it's that the patents that are being granted are of such poor quality that it calls into question the whole system.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (2, Interesting)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617879)

So when someone develops a way of doing something electronically that is novel, it should be just as worthy of receiving a patent as another idea that needs physical implementation. The milieu shouldn't matter.

Why shouldn't the milieu matter?

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (3, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617943)

The value of a novel idea is in the idea itself. Whether this is something that can be built into a physical object or can only be programmed into electronic memory gates, the idea is what is important. With the idea, it is possible to recreate the actual implementation many times over.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (4, Insightful)

drakaan (688386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618065)

So, basically, you're saying "welcome to the era of patented recipes"? I'm going to start patenting any unusual combination of ingredients that I haven't already seen on iron chef and just wait...

There's a reason that there are separate laws covering copyrights, patents, trade secrets and trademarks. It's because the "milieu" *does* matter.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618131)

drug == fancy recipe

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (2, Insightful)

drakaan (688386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618367)

Actually, no. A drug is a physical substance that can be identified by a certain chemical formula. The formula describes what's *in* the drug...not how you create it.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618155)

What he is saying is worse then that. He is saying lets patent the idea of recipes.

Me, i'm goin to create a program that just creates random lines of computer code and patent them all.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618407)

So, basically, you're saying "welcome to the era of patented recipes"? I'm going to start patenting any unusual combination of ingredients that I haven't already seen on iron chef and just wait...

Assuming that they are truly unusual (novel and nonobvious), you're probably going to have to wait a while. Imagine a universe with only 32 possible ingredients. That means that there would be over 4 billion possible combinations of ingredients. How many of those combinations do you think you'll be able to claim? How long before someone on iron chef uses one of your combinations?

No take into account that there are much more than 32 possible ingredients and that many combinations would not be considered nonobvious. That means that (a) you're chances of claiming an combination that is infringed would be very low and (b) if you did claim such a combination, its chances of being invalidated in court would be very high.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618137)

An idea is vague. Here is an idea: getting people from one place to another. Now everyone who does that owes me.

It's the implementation that matters, not the idea.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618337)

What is the benefit to society of allowing patent protection on software?

The benefits of allowing a monopoly on designs for physical processes is to overcome the high barriers of entry that such designs must overcome. Yet software has quite low barriers to entry and designs enjoy more network effects.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618497)

The value of a novel idea is in the idea itself.

I disagree. The believe the value of an idea is the net earning that this idea will earn.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618715)

Bullshit. The expression is ALWAYS what has been important. After all, are only 7 basic literary plots [straightdope.com] . Are you saying we should only ever have 7 novels, as all others are derivative in some way or another from the 7?

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618777)

> The value of a novel idea is in the idea itself. Whether this is something that can be built into
> a physical object or can only be programmed into electronic memory gates, the idea is what is important.

Well, what if the idea were, instead, worked into a painting? Or a song? That would be the realm of copyright, not patent. The point being, that an idea does not get protection simply because it's novel, instead protection is granted if it fits the criteria set forth by a law. Sometimes that means patents, sometimes copyright, and sometimes nothing at all (e.g. food ideas). This case is not about the value of novel ideas in software, but whether software fits the definition of a patentable idea under the law.

Further, I should point out that patents were never really about the the idea itself, but rather the implementation of it. They exist to protect a company's investment in R&D and, perhaps even more importantly, the means of production. Does software need this, is the real question, and if not, it can simply remain protected by copyright.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618863)

The value of a novel idea is in the idea itself.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I can generate ideas all day; formulate a problem, put a few people with relevant knowledge in a brainstorm, and you'll have more ideas for solution than you can shake a stick at.

The only value in allowing patents at all would be if nobody, confronted with the same problem, would publicise or distribute a solution to that problem within the duration of today's patents. With the speed and ease of information distribution today, it's becoming painfully obvious that this basically never happens; it might have seemed to work that way in times when exchanges of information took months or even years, yet even that would have been barely the case, considering the 'collisions' of simultaneous but unrelated duplicate inventions even back in the pre-electric era.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29619033)

But you know that ideas are not patentable?

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (4, Interesting)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617901)

What does matter is the quality of the idea and the quality of the process to determine the validity of the patent application. This is where the problem lies today. It's not that people shouldn't get patents for software, it's that the patents that are being granted are of such poor quality that it calls into question the whole system.

In part, I think that the Redhat brief is consistent with this statement--the brief does not think that abstract ideas should be patentable (neither does the SCOTUS, PTO or Fed. Cir). If you read the brief carefully, it argues that patents on software are too vague to be useful and that the proliferation of vague patents makes the current system untenable. Compare that situation to, for example, patents that cover mechanical devices where the elements are discrete things that you can touch.

In patent speak, these are all problems under 35 USC Sec. 112. The problem for all of the briefs like this is that the issue before the SCOTUS is not 112, it's 101. Section 101 defines the "subject matter" of patents. It does not address the "quality" of the patents.

That said, a lot of people have argued in a number of places that really what's happening is that the PTO and the Fed. Cir. want to use 101 as a way to exclude poorly claimed inventions that step closer into the realm of mere abstract ideas and speculation than actual implementation.

But the SCOTUS does not take case to affirm the decision. So one of two things is going to happen: they are going to overturn the Bilski decision as too rigid or they are going to take the opportunity to rewrite the laws of 101 and 112.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (4, Insightful)

baxissimo (135512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617937)

But real world development is much more like seatbelt manufacturing than number crunching. Systems must be developed, not algorithms. In fact, algorithms, for the most part, are already done. It's the combination of these disparate parts into a cohesive whole that is the cornerstone of CS in today's industry.

That sounds more like software engineering than CS to me.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (-1, Troll)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618617)

OK, so those with CS degrees shouldn't be working as developers. Outside of academia I don't see much economic value in "pure" CS.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (4, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617947)

Sorry, but how is math only somewhat related to CS? Software development, sure, but CS != software engineering. Machine learning is tons of linear algebra, high level calculus, and all sorts of mathematical trickery. Same with graphics, AI, heuristics, bioinformatics, quantum computing, motion tracking, vision, etc.

It is using mathematics to derive algorithms that solve our problems.

I really don't see where math has "left" CS. As far as I'm concerned, the interesting aspects of CS are the ones that are still really just "doing math using computers".

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618331)

It is using mathematics to derive algorithms that solve our problems.

This describes all engineering disciplines, it is hardly unique to CS. System and process models are (often quite literally) high-order algorithms, but they nonetheless remain patentable in conventional engineering disciplines. This is some of the most valuable intellectual property in engineering.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618345)

"Machine learning is tons of linear algebra, high level calculus, and all sorts of mathematical trickery. Same with graphics, AI, heuristics, bioinformatics, quantum computing, motion tracking, vision, etc.

do you ahve any idea how many "software engineers" and Software programmers have no idea how to do any of that? I continual run in to programmers and "engineers" that don't even understand how a computer subtracts binary numbers.

Hell I was working with a highly paid contractor that didn't even know how to use binary.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618641)

"I continual run in to programmers and "engineers" that don't even understand how a computer subtracts binary numbers."

Given the fact that most programmers implement binary subtraction algorithms on a daily basis .. oh wait.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618049)

That brings up a good question: If someone here on Slashdot who is against software patents came up with an extremely efficient program to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem [wikipedia.org] , would they change their tune about software patents?

Software patents sound like a bad idea (and in my personal opinion are) up until the point that you realize that your software could make a lot of money. The more I think about it, the less black-and-white the issue is.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618205)

Software patents are problem specifically because they allow 3rd parties to screw around with this guy.

If he really thinks things through, he will quickly realize this.

We have to deal with the patent system we actually have rather than a rosey idealized view of it.

This guy is FAR better off just keeping his work a trade secret. So is the rest of the industry.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618261)

you mean there isn't an efficient way to solve the traveling salesman problem? Please define efficiency.... do you mean optimal?

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618403)

Give an algorithm that finds an optimal path in polynomial time.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

TheCycoONE (913189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618503)

Perhaps he means in polynomial time. In that case said developer would be fairly handsomely rewarded both with money and fame to give up his P=NP secret. Probably more so than he could as the worlds best traveling sales man consultant.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618595)

If you can find a method in which it's solvable in polynomial time on a conventional computer, then you've just solved P=NP. So, any known solution to do it in polynomial time would earn its discoverer a lot of money. (There is, obviously, one or more optimal strategies for solving it, because there is at least one strategy for solving it. Unless there are an infinite number of strategies and none of them are the best in the same way that no positive real number is the smallest.)

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (2, Interesting)

agbinfo (186523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618543)

Are you saying that if someone found a way to solve NP complete problems efficiently then that person should be allowed to forbid everyone else from using it?
Doesn't sound like such a good idea to me.

I'm against patents in all cases.

The first time I had to deal with patents was after the company I worked for had developed an electronic device. I was provided with a list of patents to read to figure out if we were infringing on these patents. The trolls, this was circa 1995, had already sent their cease and desists notice and the product wasn't even out yet.

The product was developed without any knowledge of these patents. Some patents were really far off; Most were vague; None were useful.
The idea of patents is to promote the publication of new ideas. Instead, it's a barrier to innovation.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (3, Insightful)

jhfry (829244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618255)

You confuse CS with software development. Software development is better suited to a business college, though it is taking a long time for that shift to occur.

CS, at least at a decent school, is a true science and engineering discipline. A typical programmer is not a scientist or engineer in the same way as the steel worker isn't a structural engineer.

The problem really is the marketplace has been slow to realize that most applications can be developed without a single computer scientist involved. However if your application is dependent upon the reliability of a unique algorithm it might make sense to consult with a CS to ensure that the algorithm is implemented correctly in software and doesn't spit out 100,000 when it should display 65,535.

Fields like robotics, electronics, aerospace, etc, is where CS's should be working, where there isn't a library free or commercial to call upon and where the ability to communicate with real engineers as a peer is a must. I have known real Computer Scientists, and I have known over trained programmers.

What CS's really need to do is stop going to work as business software programmers... I don't see many structural engineers actually welding steel, many chemists pumping gas, or many electrical engineers wiring houses. A CS degree needs to mean something... and writing code for a living when you have a CS degree only perpetuates the myth that a CS degree is required to write software.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618793)

"I don't see many structural engineers actually welding steel, many chemists pumping gas, or many electrical engineers wiring houses."

And I don't see many CS's assembling 8 bits into bytes by hand. What I do see is structural engineers, chemists, and electrical engineers relying on computer software that incorporates their disciplines' knowledge to help them do their jobs.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618309)

In some ways, CS is still tied to mathematics. It is quantifiable and therein lies its only true link to mathematics. The development and study of algorithms is what CS is all about, and to the extent that mathematics can be used to measure these things it is useful.

Please. Actual Computer Science is absolutely still math and all about math. And Software Engineering is still math in the sense that all programs are literally -- no analogy needed -- symbolic representations of math. Not "something that can be described by math", like the motion of a clock's pendulum. They are math in the same way that "a^2 = b^2 + c ^2" is math.

And just because programmers often take an ad-hoc practical engineering approach to coming up with the right mathematical equations to do the job they want, doesn't change the fact that you're not doing anything more than coming up with a suitable symbolic description of math.

Some programmers don't appreciate this even as they do it. Not appreciating the fundamental nature of what you're doing doesn't make it go away.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618433)

programs are literally symbolic representations of math

I'd like to understand how a program which sets a bit in a register to turn on an LED is math.

I hear the opinion you are expressing all the time, but I really would like to understand how math comes into play at all for a large set of programs. So I created a very simple program above whose relationship with math I don't understand. Can you help by providing some insight?

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618861)

Any program you write is, at its most basic, nothing but a sequence of mathematical operations. Every single statement you write can be translated directly into a set of compares, additions, multiplication, subtractions, or divisions. Flipping a register is the same as setting it to zero and then adding the requested value to that zero.

They don't call them 'computers' for nothing.

Re:It's been a while since math was relevant to CS (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618577)

The problem you have is not that you have a wrong idea of programming, but that you have a wrong idea of mathematics. Most people only get educated into a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of mathematics and subconsciously think that something like the quadratic equation is the height of mathematical expression complexity.

However, nothing stops a mathematician from examining the consequences of much larger systems, such as might look like a program, and in fact mathematicians do. There's research into large numbers, research into large proof systems that make most programs look like small beans (go read the Principia Mathematica... or rather, go skim the Principia Mathematica and run screaming), research into all sorts of things that are definitely math but look a lot more like a program than you think if you've only been education with conventional primary school mathematics, or even if you've gotten a bachelor's degree in computer science, which does not generally cover the Curry-Howard isomorphism. (I didn't even get it in my masters program, I had to learn it myself.)

There is no feasible way of drawing a distinction between mathematics and programs. You might be able to draw a legal one, but as always happens when you try to introduce colors to bits [sooke.bc.ca] , the coloring just won't stand up to the sort of sandblaster scrutiny that will be applied by the plaintiffs and defendants.

You might observe that few programmers appear to be thinking mathematically when they program, to which I'd follow up with an observation that no, no they don't and boy does it show! But note carefully that's a characteristic of the programmer, not the program. The programmer may not understand math, and may crank out a mathematical system of breathtaking worthlessness and with few or none of the properties the programmer would have found desirable (like "actually doing what it's supposed to do"), but it is not written into the definition of mathematics that something is only mathematics if it is "useful" or "good". It's still all just a term-rewriting system when you get down to it, and any attempt to draw a barrier around "term rewriting system" and "real-world program" is simply doomed to failure.

It's all just assembler, and all assembler can do is basic arithmetic, moving numbers around in memory in a manner very easy to characterize mathematically, and some very mathematical conditionals. You might be able to fool yourself into thinking you've somehow transcended these primitives into a "non-math" domain... but you haven't.

Software patents are teh suck (3, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617727)

I agree that software shouldn't be patentable (either directly or through the various loopholes that applicants use to get around the fact that software, when claimed directly, is not a "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter" [uspto.gov] ).

But in my opinion, this should be a matter of policy motivated by the fact that the rate of improvements in the software arts is far too fast to permit 20-year terms of patent protection, and such a policy has to come from Congress rather than the courts. Current law seems to support the idea of granting patent rights for programs in the context of a "general purpose computer programmed with software" or a "computer readable storage medium embodying software", and I seriously doubt that SCOTUS is going to change that.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617823)

The problem is that patenting of software didn't come from Congress in the first place, it came from the courts.
What I would like to see is a Supreme Court ruling that extended patents to software and business methods worded in such a way as to push Congress to pass a law addressing the issues that lead to patenting software. I don't believe that this would be a good law, but it would be one that could be more easily addressed than the current situation.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (2, Interesting)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618383)

The problem is that patenting of software didn't come from Congress in the first place, it came from the courts.

That isn't completely true. The courts use the law as guidance in determining the scope of patent protection. There is nothing in the laws passed by Congress excluding software patents. In fact, the laws are intentionally vague so as not to accidentally exclude technological innovation from patent protection. So while software patent protections are directly derived from court rulings, those rulings are derived from an interpretation of the laws passed by Congress.

The argument against software patents isn't that the law specifically prohibits them. The argument is that it is just bad policy. These patents are unnecessary and only serve to stifle innovation. This sort of policy decision really has to come from Congress. The executive has a bit of influence in that the PTO could raise the bar required to receive patents on software, but they can only go so far. If they raise the bar too high, someone will take a rejected patent to court and the court will rule that the PTO is in violation of the law and we will be back where we started.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617851)

Current law seems to support the idea of granting patent rights for programs in the context of "general purpose computer programmed with software" or a "computer readable storage medium embodying software"? Really? What law is that?

Re:Software patents are teh suck (2, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618521)

It's right there in 35 USC 101. In fact, I quoted the relevant part in my previous post.

A general purpose computer programmed with software is a machine, and 35 USC 101 says that machines are patent-eligible. A computer-readable storage medium embodying software which, when executed, performs the steps of some method is an article of manufacture, and 35 USC 101 says that articles of manufacture are patent-eligible.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618165)

Another reason patents suck is that, like locks, they only keep out honest people.

Certain powerful countries will use foreign technology without paying the fees the rest of the world has to. America and the rest of the free world needs to get real. The P in GNP is product, not paper.

I'm sick and tired of watching my country burden itself with regulations while allowing its "free trade partners" to play by their own rules. We can't tell them what to do but we can choose not to deal with them.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618203)

I agree that software shouldn't be patentable (either directly or through the various loopholes that applicants use to get around the fact that software, when claimed directly, is not a "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter").

How is a software algorithm ("a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations") not a "process?" How is a computer which has been programmed in a particular way not a "machine?"

But in my opinion, this should be a matter of policy motivated by the fact that the rate of improvements in the software arts is far too fast to permit 20-year terms of patent protection

If a patented algorithm becomes obsolete because of the fast rate of improvement in the software arts, then the patent owner will allow it to lapse in order to avoid paying maintenance fees on a worthless algorithm.

And by what measure do you claim that the software arts continue to improve significantly faster than other areas of technology? Most fundamental operations (e.g. searching, sorting, calculations, storage and retrieval, etc) either have optimal algorithms or existing algorithms have been proven to be nearly optimal. No one is talking about patenting quick sort or the hash table. Almost everything you learn in an undergraduate CS curriculum was invented decades ago. The vast majority of software patents are solutions to very specific problems (e.g. DRM) or represent tiny improvements or modifications to existing methods.

And even if that is demonstrably the case, what about other fast-moving areas of technology like biotech and materials science, specifically nanotechnology? Should those also have special rules? How fast is too fast?

Furthermore, I would suggest that the faster an area of technology moves, the less it matters how long the patent term is. A patent in such an area will quickly become obsolete. It's actually stagnant technology where a long patent term on a rare innovation is most valuable.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618481)

How is a software algorithm ("a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations") not a "process?" How is a computer which has been programmed in a particular way not a "machine?"

Software itself is not a process. The steps performed by a processor when executing the software do constitute a process. The algorithm underlying the software may be a process, but algorithms in the absence of practical application are considered "abstract ideas" which is one of the classes of judicial exceptions to patent eligibility - this is really what Bilski is all about. And a computer which has been programmed in a particular way is a machine, but the software with which it is programmed is not a machine.

And by what measure do you claim that the software arts continue to improve significantly faster than other areas of technology?

By the sheer vast numbers of patent applications filed for inventions in the software arts.

And even if that is demonstrably the case, what about other fast-moving areas of technology like biotech and materials science, specifically nanotechnology? Should those also have special rules? How fast is too fast?

Maybe. But one other factor that sets software apart in most cases is that anybody can write it with little to no initial investment. Really, all you need is a clunky old garage-sale computer, a (free) compiler, and skill. This sets Joe Sixpack, the free software hobbyist who codes on the weekends for fun, amid a minefield of players who have ample legal resources at their disposal. The bar for entry into the software arena is set so low that somebody's twelve-year-old kid could conceivably infringe a patent without even realizing it.

Furthermore, I would suggest that the faster an area of technology moves, the less it matters how long the patent term is. A patent in such an area will quickly become obsolete. It's actually stagnant technology where a long patent term on a rare innovation is most valuable.

It depends. What if a particular software concept is so necessary in a particular subfield that being barred (legally or financially) from using that concept would substantially hinder the progress of that subfield? Such a patent would be extremely valuable, ensuring that such progress would be hindered for a full 20 years.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29619021)

Furthermore, I would suggest that the faster an area of technology moves, the less it matters how long the patent term is. A patent in such an area will quickly become obsolete. It's actually stagnant technology where a long patent term on a rare innovation is most valuable.

A patent is a wall in front of progress. The faster the progress, the more the wall arrests. The whole point of patents is to encourage people to invent things so valuable that others would rather pay to be let through that wall than have to go around it.

Software patents are like being surrounded by walls, as if in maze with no guaranteed exit, and all the walls have blurry edges, and some of them will solidify to a razor's edge for sole purpose of cutting you as travel along a path that has been clear for decades.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618369)

That's a poor argument becasuse if that's true, that just means a particular 'device' would just become obsolete.

It shouldn't be patentable becasue it's math, and because it's a language.

You can't patent 2 + 2, and you can't patent a language.

Re:Software patents are teh suck (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618639)

It shouldn't be patentable because it's math

An algorithm alone may be math, but the use of an algorithm to solve a problem is not math. For example, consider a sorting algorithm. I can think about it, describe it, analyze its running time and space usage, I can prove it correct. That's all math, but none of it will actually sort numbers, much less solve a problem that relies on sorting numbers. Once an algorithm is applied to the solution of a problem, it ceases being math and becomes engineering.

Engineers use math all the time to do things like design a bridge that won't fall victim to harmonic collapse. If someone finds a new, non-obvious use for an algorithm or equation that solves a problem, that should be patentable. Software is not special.

None of this will take math or algorithms away from mathematicians or computer scientists. As the saying goes, "real computer scientists don't write in anything less portable than a number two pencil." There is no particular reason to think that the patentability of software will hold back research.

Why I like RedHat!!!! (1)

linuxgurugamer (917289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617911)

Many, many people in the OSS area deride RedHat for many reasons. I have never yet heard an argument against RedHat which made sense.

RedHat is the only vendor who puts their money where their mouth is. ALL of their software is opensource, as evidenced by the CentOS project, which makes the RedHat Enterprise system available for free under a different umbrella. Ubuntu is based on Debian, and while it is more current than RedHat, their software has (IMHO) more bugs than RedHat. I speak from experience, being both an RHCE and using Ubuntu at my job on a daily basis. I also had similar experiences with Mandake/Mandriva.

I don't see Canonicial, Mandriva, or any of the other commercial Linux vendors spending money to legally protect software which doesn't even belong to them!

RedHat stands head and shoulders far above all the other vendors.

Re:Why I like RedHat!!!! (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618655)

I think the hostility against Red Hat comes from a couple of sources. First of all, they pretty much present themselves as a proprietary software company. Go to redhat.com and see how long it takes you to get to a place where you can download their software for free, or indeed, to get any information to the effect that their products are in fact F/OSS. Now, this is turning out to be a pretty sensible approach market-wise -- AFAIK they're really the only organization in the Linux world that's making a healthy profit off just selling Linux -- but it's not surprising that it pisses off the idealists. The fact that Fedora and CentOS exist doesn't affect this much, because there's no obvious connection. And anyone who's been following things for a while remembers that Red Hat wasn't always like this; there was a pretty abrupt change at the time of the Red Hat Linux --> RHEL / Fedora split.

Second, RPM just sucks compared to apt. The insane amount of time people have had to spend dealing with RPM's weirdnesses has led to a lot of hostility toward the company that created it.

Good call on their legal argument (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617969)

Laws have been struck down on the grounds that they were too vague to enforce.

Full source code (2, Interesting)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617971)

The basic concept of patents is you share your discovery/insight with society at large, and in return you recieve a short term monopoly. Society is advanced by your knowledge, you are rewarded. Good for both parties.

I would not object to software patents if they actually provided the complete functional source code in the patent. You want a patent, you provide full disclosure.

No need to motivate disclosure (4, Interesting)

l2718 (514756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618133)

Patents last for 17 years; product cycles in software are about 3. In other words, software ideas (even with complete source code) are usually worth zero after 17 years. In fact, almost all software ideas have the following characteristics:

  1. They are directly useful to the inventor, in the software he writes.
  2. The idea improves a small component in a large system. No product will turn specifically on the feature improved by this idea.
  3. The product containing the new idea also contains many more ideas, most of them due to people other than the inventor.

Taken together, these mean that there is no need for software patents at all: people would invent software ideas all the time, even without patent protection (they did so for decades in the past), and they would benefit from them monetarily. Moreover, disclosing your software idea "for free" doesn't lose you much (this idea is not what makes your product unique) and gains you a lot -- it gains you all the ideas that everybody else discloses. The incentive to keep software ideas secret is so low that there is simply no need for patents to force disclosure.

Re:No need to motivate disclosure (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618583)

Not to nitpick an interesting post, but patent terms in the US are 20 years from the filing date (plus any patent term adjustments resulting from the USPTO backlog, which can be 3 years or more in some cases). The law was changed in 1995 to address "submarine patents". Any patents on applications filed before the law was changed are still granted the 17 year term from the date of issue, but there are only a very few applications still pending from those days.

Re:No need to motivate disclosure (2, Funny)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618783)

I can't see a need for this either, but do see a need for copyrights.

Re:No need to motivate disclosure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29619025)

The incentive to keep software ideas secret is so low that there is simply no need for patents to force disclosure.

Go tell that to all the companies that create proprietary formats and protocols!

Re:Full source code (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618405)

Except one company could shut down the software industry.

My patented application uses a standard method to communicate to the database, now everyone either uses a different way or pays me.

That would cause fragmentation and would stifle development.

Knuth Misses the Point (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618039)

Knuth's argument [progfree.org] misses the point. The distinction is not between mathematical and non-mathematical algorithms, but rather between an algorithm in the abstract and an algorithm as applied to a real world problem. An algorithm, in and of itself, lacks the utility required for patentability. Once applied to solve a problem, however, the invention is no longer the algorithm per se but rather its useful application, which should be patentable.

Suppose one invents an algorithm for efficiently solving systems of non-linear equations. Alone that algorithm should not be patentable because merely thinking about equations in the abstract is not useful. But if one applies that algorithm to, say, efficiently simulating the motion of fluids or forecasting the weather, then it becomes useful.

To avoid charges of 'thought-crime' one can always institute a requirement that the application of the algorithm be implemented on a computer, but that's a mere formality. Few new, useful, and non-obvious software algorithms can be used effectively by the human mind alone, and it would be virtually impossible to prove infringement. Furthermore it would be a PR disaster.

Red Hat's argument is also very weak. Software patents are often of low quality primarily because the Patent Office long resisted hiring patent examiners with computer science backgrounds. In fact, it is still much more difficult for someone with a computer science degree to become a patent examiner, patent attorney, or patent agent than it is for someone with a degree in chemistry, physics, biology, etc. As a result, the Patent Office is understaffed and many of the examiners are underqualified.

Another reason software patent quality suffers is because patent examiners often first look to patents and patent applications as sources of prior art. Because software has only been patentable for a couple of decades, there is a much smaller body of readily accessible prior art. Examiners can and do look to journal articles and other sources, but time and budget constraints make thorough searching difficult.

The problem Red Hat describes is not entirely confined to software, either. Patents of all stripes have dubious or overly broad claims. The answer is not a patchwork of allowed and disallowed subject matter or different rules for different kinds of technology. Better answers are to either eliminate the presumption of validity that patents enjoy or to tighten the rules on enablement and written description, which would mean that applicants could only make narrower claims closer to their specific implementation and not to the broader class of invention.

Re:Knuth Misses the Point (2, Insightful)

Rob Riggs (6418) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618991)

The distinction is not between mathematical and non-mathematical algorithms, but rather between an algorithm in the abstract and an algorithm as applied to a real world problem. An algorithm, in and of itself, lacks the utility required for patentability. Once applied to solve a problem, however, the invention is no longer the algorithm per se but rather its useful application, which should be patentable.

So you are saying that the "Use of a sort algorithm in the display of user selectable menu items" should be patentable, but sorting algorithms themselves should not be?

The problem with that is that a new sorting algorithm would be novel. The application of that algorithm: not so much. Because you'll end up with "Use of bubble sort algorithm in the display of user selectable menu items", "Use of quick sort algorithm in the display of user selectable menu items", "Use of merge sort algorithm in the display of user selectable menu items". Software patents will remain as stupid as they already are.

Software engineering is the application of algorithms to solve real world problems. It is not "invention". Software engineers are inventors in the same way that architects are inventors: they aren't. Algorithms themselves are the invention, just as the products that an architect may incorporate into his buildings are the inventions. But algorithms are not and should not be patentable.

Software patents are just patents... (1)

DevStar (943486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618077)

There's really no difference between software patents and other non-design patents. They are all effectively declarative and/or algorithmic descriptions of an idea. The only real difference with software patents is that there is usually no physical capital required to produce, reproduce, or copy it. But the degree of non-obviousness and utility may be no less than a new fuel technology. Furthermore, one can argue that all matter is simply a program of atomic and subatomic particles. It's just that particles are a scarcer resource than bits, and less malleable. But once we have the technology to manipulate these particles as bits, the world is just a big program. I say we should be consistent. Either software is patentable, or just abolish patents altogether.

Re:Software patents are just patents... (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618237)

...but we *already* have the technology to manipulate particles (electrons) as bits. The devices that do that are called "computers".

The computers themselves? The things that manipulate the bits directly? Patentable, to be sure...at least parts of them.

The instructions fed to the computers? No. Copyrightable? Yes.

We *are* being consistent.

Re:Software patents are just patents... (1)

DevStar (943486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618723)

That's only one particular type of particle. But as you note, the computer (which you argue is rightfully patentable) is not made of only electrons. Nevertheless it is made up of various subatomic particles. To construct this computer is just a series of instructions in how to order these subatomic particles. Today those instructions are patentable. The actual material that constitutes the computer is in fact not patentable (it's an instance of the application of instructions, i.e., the application of a patent). That is the computer is just a program manifest of bits that aren't an interpretation of electrons, but nevertheless just the result of instructions. These instructions are really no different than the instructions that create any other program, except the constituent parts of the instructions.

Re:Software patents are just patents... (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29619017)

...To construct this computer is just a series of instructions in how to order these subatomic particles...

No...that's exactly the point I'm trying to make. The instructions themselves are different from the particles. Whether undiscovered, residing in a human brain, written on paper, or stored in a disk or similar medium, the instructions themselves have zero effect. How do you write down the instructions to create a strange quark? What machine do you give these instructions to?

A machine or machines that has/have been fashioned to manipulate plastic, silicon, aluminum, steel, etc to produce a working computer is/are the thing(s) that has/have the effect.

I understand your line of argument, and I need to point out that at its logical conclusion, one would have to say that nothing is patentable because previous motions of particles would be prior art, or that understanding and observing some elemental or subatomic interaction would make subsequent interactions obvious.

If we're talking about the current state of knowledge and manufacturing capability, we must acknowledge differences between subatomic and organic human scale organizations of particles, as well as differentiating between thought and action.

Is math discovered or created? (2, Insightful)

Jodka (520060) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618109)

Intuitively we think of patents as applying to designs which man creates, but not to designs which man discovers. That system grants engineers compensation for their work of designing and provides them an incentive to design. So you can patent a telephone but not a fish. That "discovered or created" dichotomy works until you get to math because we do not know if math is discovered or created. Is mathematics a natural phenomenon which exists and is discovered by man or is it a thing which man creates? To summarize the summary, if it is the former, and programs are math, then programs should be un-patentable.

Though a philosophically entertaining line of analysis, perhaps a better approach to evaluating software patents would be purely to consider their social utility: How much good software is created at what price with or without software patents; Does the sum social burden of patent trolls, the cost of litigation, and restrictions on using proprietary algorithms outweigh the value of additional software created a result of the patent incentive?

Re:Is math discovered or created? (2, Informative)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618485)

But you can patent genes. Discovered, not created.

Is it bullshit? Yes, but it has legal precedent.

Re:Is math discovered or created? (2, Insightful)

Jodka (520060) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618745)

But you can patent genes. Discovered, not created.
Is it bullshit? Yes, but it has legal precedent.

Well what many people find to be so vile about gene patents is precisely what you say, that genes are discovered not created, that they violate the "discovered not created" rule. So I would say that still, there is a "discovered not created" rule for patent eligibility and gene patents are a notorious exception to that rule, rather than saying that the existence of gene patents proves that there is no such rule.

Re:Is math discovered or created? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29618903)

Phrased another way: How much software (math?) is created only because it can be patented? Would the method have been discovered otherwise? And does the utility of the patent-only software (math?) justify the ecosystem of patents?

Re:Is math discovered or created? (1)

CountZer0 (60549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618979)

Neil Stephenson's Anatham spends quite a bit of time examining exactly this question.

Highly recommended reading, reminiscent of Cryptonomicon rather than the Baroque Cycle.

All patents are math (2, Interesting)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618173)

Any argument loose enough to classify algorithms as mathematics is necessarily loose enough to classify *all* patentable subject matter as "mathematics". I'll see your Howard-Curry isomorphism and raise you algorithmic information theory.

The Howard-Curry argument is essentially that anything that can be described on a computer is "math". Unfortunately, there is no patentable subject matter that does not have this property.

Even ignoring that, the part that is disingenuous about the Howard-Curry argument is that it also is directly applicable to electronic circuit design and chemical process patents in the same way it is applicable to a computer algorithms. I would find the argument less shady if it was not applied selectively by opponents of algorithm patents.

You Infinged on My Patent #123abc (1)

timberwolf753 (1064802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29618239)

You sir a valialting pattent 123abc Please kindly pay me $1,000,000,000,000 as damges allow me to do this. Thank you Pantent office and law.
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