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Supreme Court rules algorithms can be patented... 295

Josh Baugher wrote in telling us that the Supreme Court on Monday left intact a decision saying that mathematical algorithms used in computer programs can be patented The judges were actually refering to a formula used in a particular domain. Am I the only one that worries about everything becoming owned by the wealthy 2 percent of people?
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Supreme Court rules algorithms can be patented...

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  • All this to say that whatever the scenario, usually cash=patents .. so it's always the 2% that own everything.
  • Actually, where I live I'd be speaking Dutch if it weren't for the Brits. And I'd be speaking Mohawk if it weren't for the Dutch (the Brits were actually nice to the Mohawks). :-)
  • I'm sure this won't be the last time the SCOTUS will have to deal with this issue. It never ceases to amaze me, how the courts will make rulings on subjects about which they know nothing, based on arguments from lawyers who know nothing. I think the Borg have assimilated the District of Corruption.
  • by vertigo ( 341 )
    >I'm getting out of this country before something >extremely bad happens.
    >Anyone in Europe have an apartment for sale?
    Don't come to The Netherlands. I have the nasty feeling we will be calling eachother "comrade" in a couple of years overhere, and the clock will be put back to 1984.

    They just imposed a tax on cdr's which benefits audio artists (yes, even computer cdr's) and I heard they are planning on doing the same thing for harddisks, giving the tax to software companies to compensate for loss of income due to copying. So, when you copy Linux for a friend, you're paying money to the equivalent of the RIAA here, and as soon as the fellow buys a harddisk to put it on, he would pay money to the software companies. The CDR tax is allready in effect, but I hope the source i got the info about the hdd's from was either wrong, or this law won't make it, else the bearded freak you see on tv holding a protestsign, chained to the microsoft hq's will be me.
  • Perhaps you should try sniffing around in the real world some time.

    Most educational institutions require unlimited rights to any IP you create while attentding them. So if you want to learn enough to create IP, you lose. Since most educational instiutions in the US are underfunded, they flog the rights to your work to the Intels, Microsofts, and General Electrics of this world.

    Furthermore, in the US, taxpayer-funded government reasearch is a saleable commodity. So your tax dollars, which fund reseach at universities, NASA, and the ilk, are used to underwrite that basic research, which is patented and onsold to private industry - the little guy's tax dollars go to making Bill Gates richer. Moreover, the little guy's dollars go into a scheme which, to all intents and purposes, forever excludes him from benefitting from publicly funded research without paying a private company for the privilige.

    Want a job to pay for that? So sad, sign away your IP rights when you sign up.

    As it stands, US patent law generally, and in software in particular, promotes the interests of the already wealthy, at the expense of everyone else.

    It wouldn't worry me much in .nz, but for the fact that US companies will inevitably begin to lean on their allies and trading partners to follow their fucked-up lead in all this.
  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    "Supreme Court" and "Rules" in the same sentence? For shame..
  • OK, let's say I spend a bunch of money on chemistry research and come up with a great new drug. Should I be able to patent that, so that I can make my money back?

    Yes -- unless your patent happens to be a new use for existing chemical, and even if you have invented a drug there can be exceptions that disallow you to keep others from duplicating it.

    OK, now let's say I spent a bunch of money to come up with a great encryption algorithm, should I be able to patent that, so that I can make my money back?

    No because nothing prevents you to implement algorithm and sell software with it -- but if you will prevent others from using it, you will create a non-interoperable thing and disallow others to make anything compatible. You already have a benefit of being first, and giving you more will cause more damage than benefit. Patents aren't rights, they are given by the government (note -- patents are specific to countries where they are issued) to stimulate development of technology, and in cases where they do the opposite (hindering the development of communication programs) there is no justification for them.

    What if I am a linguist? Should I take royalties from every use of alphabet?

  • Forget "should." Be pragmatic, and think about "is." Neglecting a few minor exceptions, people work hard because they want a better house or car or computer or whatever. Basically they want money. That's life. That's economics.

    Oh, Americans... :-( People want better life. What they do to achieve that, differs a lot. Some get more money (say, by writing software, getting a better job, robbing banks, etc.) then use those money to buy something. Some make things that they lacked (say, wooden chairs, photographs of flowers, unixlike kernels, HTTP servers, scientific articles with their ideas about prime numbers). Some learn to appreciate what they didn't appreciate before (say, the beauty of stars, art). Some do something to get higher position their person in their organizations/companies/... (improve their hunting, drink more beer, argue on company's meetings, pronounce long speeches before elections, make impressive contributions to software projects), etc. Most of people do things from every of those categories, and only brainwashed modern "cynics" that aren't even really cynical, just fascinated with money, explain everything in the terms of monetary value.

  • Name any software patent that improved anything.

    Counter-examples are countless, and all of them deal with the same interoperability problem -- patent holder refuses to provide interoperability or allow implementation under reasonable license, and the whole world is either stuck because patented algorithm infected too many things around (GIF), or has to develop for free (just to compensate a damage, patent holder is creating) an alternative (gzip, JPEG, PNG).

    In all other areas, with nonzero production costs, patent holder is more or less stimulated to constantly invest money into constantly making products containing patented idea. In software the "constantly" part doesn't work well -- patent holder makes something, and while there is a demand for the use of algorithm, the conditions (say, requirement of free license) aren't favorable for him if he will develop things complying to them while existing software produces profits without any further investment.
  • OK, you mention GIF so I'll talk about that (actually I beleive it is the LZW compression algorithm that GIF uses that is patented, but that's not really important). I think we can agree that GIF is a good format that filled a need that people had at the time. I argue that the format would not have been developed at all (or would have at least taken longer) if patents were not avaliable. Remove the incentive (all the money Unisys makes from patenting GIF) and there is no reason to inovate.

    I have only mentioned the consequences of one, and very damaging, patent -- others things that I have given as examples, are gzip and PNG. You are completely wrong about the possibility that compressed image format will not be created if algorithms were not patentable. Some other compression algorithms and image formats were developed specifically to become non-patentable, and freely distributed, so if GIF and LZW never existed they could be replaced by anything else that would be developed at the time -- neither the idea of compression, nor the idea of image format was new at the moment. There is also a high probability that in this imaginable case moronic indexed 256 colors limit will never be introduced into image formats because most of people who develop image formats would know better than that, and if such thing appeared in the first release, someone will immediately point out that it's bad and should be extended.

  • Or demand a rewritten contract and get them to sign off on it *before* you take the job. I did that when I was consulting for a bank last year: the IP agreement stated the bank would own anything I produced --- on or off the job --- for the duration of the contract plus some period; I rejected it because I do quite a lot of off-time Linux and OS/2 coding (not that all of it sees the light of day, it helps to have time to *finish* projects...).

    They produced a new contract which was acceptable.
  • Note that the Supreme Court did not actually agree to hear the case. This is often the case. The court sometimes prefers to let things percolate in lower courts for a while before agreeing to hear a case and render a final decision. This lets the arguments on both sides play themselves out. We can hope for a circuit split, where another appeals district comes to an opposite conclusion. That almost always invites a Supreme Court review. However, since this is a statutory rather than a constitutional question, the court might be saying it thinks this is a minor issue.
  • Posted by antivert:

    Do you think we want this? Do you think we asked for a country where corporations and money rule the lives of the people? I spend my time trying to think of ways to set this place right. As Bill Hicks said, I'm an American because my parents f!$#ed here. Does this make us all morons?

    Even our health is dictated by the government. The FDA still allows the greedy corporations to put cancerous poison in our food, and if they have their way ALL will be owned, including herbs. Marijuana is not legal for medical purposes in most places, yet the prescribe thorazine for stress. Yay. Yes, the country is a joke. Is it our fault? No. Will it be our fault if we don't do anything about it? Yes.

    It's just so SO damned hard. The corruption is SO complete, the threats to personal freedom come in giant waves. It's pretty easy to feel a bit overwhelmed.
  • Posted by antivert:

    Are you a corporation? =)
  • Posted by antivert:

    Why don't you think the right to grow and smoke a naturally growing plant is an important part of individual freedom?

    By allowing the government to take away our right to grow a plant, we are sacrificing our very basic right to property. This opens the door to other tramplings of our freedom. Do not assume that this does not affect you if you have no interest in growing or smoking marijuana. It does.
  • Posted by antivert:

    You believe you are free because the government doesn't prohibit you from doing what *you* want to do. However.. what if, suddenly, praying were made illegal? Those who don't pray will simply say "We are free! When I say free, I don't mean being able to legally smoke marijuana if you want to, or pray in a church of your choice, or drink beer. I mean all of that other stuff we get to do."

    You don't see hemp growing and consumption as a right because you have been conditioned not to. You've been made to see it as an illicit act of a fringe group of troublemakers. Therefore, the debate on marijana has been reduced to "high class" vs "no class", and the real issue is effectively obscured. No good will come of this.

    Just because a law doesn't directly affect you doesn't mean it isn't wrong.
  • Posted by antivert:

    Patriotism is socially acceptable brainwashing.
  • Posted by col_panik:

    I doubt I'm the first one to suggest:

    Somebody needs to throw together a book form of all the algor's they can come up with and GPL them before someobody -else- does otherwise.
  • Posted by Rumball:

    OMG. There is no fundamental difference, at least not as far as your argument is concerned. If you understood what he wrote, there was nothing at all that even remotely implied the possibility that he was implying that a scientist could patent "the right to have blue eyes". Where did you come up with that? He is asking whether the scientist should be able to patent the information gained from his research and use it to make money. It is quite similar to your case of a computer scientist spending time to develope some type of algorithm and then applying for a patent. It is a difficult issue because it hard to distinguish the point when information becomes somebody's property. However, I believe that the similarity between scientific research, such as discovering fundamental laws to the universe, and designing algorithms is greater than you may wish to believe. Implementation of that algorithm is a different story altogether.
  • Posted by Tejano:

    Well once again the supreme court did the unthinkable. Create a law. Hmmm, whats wrong with what I just said. The court creating a law. I thought that the Constitution labeled out the duties of each branch. I guess the country is very close to dissintegration, among other things.
    So, in laymans terms, I can basically come up with a "squaring principle" that outlines some basic characteristics of squares. A mathematical algorithm is just that, an equation pertaining to the nature of math using math. So in essence my little "principle" could be patented.
    Thats dumb.
    My guess is that it would only be useful for M$ or a graphics engine that use long and difficult equations that take up time and energy, except M$s of course. id probably likes this but since Linux is shedding off the skin of software, its copywrites, a move to show your math skills off wouldn't be that bad of an idea.
  • Posted by antivert:

    This murder defense could also be used to explain why we are not allowed to vote, chew gum, run down the street, drive a car, own a dog, use a phone, go to a movie, and type on a computer. Of course.. we are allowed to do these things, but if we weren't, your "murder" defense is still just as relevant. We can't have any rights because the world isn't perfect.

    However. The people did *NOT* decide to make marijuana illegal. When we were born, it was already illegal, and the justification for that has been shoved down our throats ever since we were in preschool. The blindly biased scare tactics we get from the money hungry DARE program (and similar programs) caused the country to fall to the illusion that the government has passed this law to protect us. There was no vote.
    The people did NOT vote to make "hemp" illegal. William Randolph Hearst, a racist (reportely, he especially hated mexicans) and owner of The Hearst Corporation, a major logging company, had 800,000 acres of timberland taken from them by Pancho Villa's troops mexican speaking troops. The mexicans planned on planting hemp there. William Hearst had had a pretty successful go at replacing hemp paper with more expensive and lesser quality tree pulp paper (which likes to yellow and crumble after a short time), and now his stranglehold was being threatened by these people and their potential crop of non-crumbling hemp paper. He immediately sought to have "marihuana" put on every anti-narcotics bill, even though it's not a narcotic. Not many complained, as they didn't even know what "marihuana" was. It was always called "hemp". They'd made up the word "marihuana".

    Marihuana was blamed for rampages of "blacks and mexicans", through the Hearst-controlled newspapers. Through a series of connected events shortly thereafter, "Marihuana" became illegal. The full text is here:
    Most of this information was pulled from this page.

    But you see.. THERE WAS NO VOTE. It's interesting you could say that the majority rules in this situation, seeing as you obviously didn't seek out any information on the subject. You *were* right about one thing, though.. this *is* how our "democracy" works.

    Money. Power. Corporation.
  • Posted by flawed-logic:

    When you get down to it, software, and especially algorithms is math. You can't patent a mathematical formula (basically a kind or algorithm), so you can't (well... shouldn't) patent a software algorithm. I'm surprised I haven't noticed anyone say this yet.
  • Posted by Raymond W. Rowe, ESQ.:

    You would not destroy Patent law by doing this. Patent law is designed to work around this problem. What would happen is if the judge felt that it was in the public's best interest for the product to be on the market, he would simply grant you damages equal to a reasonable licensing fee and continue to allow the defendant to market the product.
  • Posted by Phantom of the Operating System:

    can we patent that, in your wisdom?
  • Posted by Stephen "The Carp" Carpenter:

    Ahhh.... well lets pu townership to the test?

    Lets assume the Basic Human Rights are "Life,
    Liberty and property" (the ideal that our
    government claimed to be founded on). Argument
    at a level below this becomes even more
    pointless :)

    If you have a car and I like it. I take your car.
    That is called stealing. The problem is NOT that
    I now have a car identical to yours, the
    problme is that you don't have you car.
    Thus your right to own property is infringed.

    If you have an idea for a revolutionary new
    way to move dirt (lets call it a shovel), and
    I see it and I like I make a copy of it
    for myself, then that is NOT stealing. You still
    have YOUR shovel. I now have your idea...and so do

    The right to own property (and I am counting notes
    commonly called money as propery) does NOT
    give you the right to have them have any value
    or be in nay way unique.

    When applied in this way, many of our modern
    ideas show up very much broken. However...
    maybe that is because they are?
  • Posted by antivert:

    I'm an american, and I *swear* they tell us the real origins of inventions. Really. These people must not have been listening in class.. or, possibly, school was a bit different in the 50's. ;)

    Myself, I really don't care which country "produced" a great inventor. Most of the people who talk about "our country invented this, we invented that.." couldn't invent their way out of a paper bag. ;)
  • For instance, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which just went into effect was written for the express purpose of bringing US Copyright law into conformity with those of other countries.
    Formally at least, yes. However, did the DMCA advocates perhaps refer to the December 1996 WIPO conference in Geneva, where the members of the Berne Convention agreed to extend protection to digital works? If so, they are playing a trick on you.

    I wasn't at the conference (of course), but it was reported on UPD-DISCUSS [] that the U.S. delegation was the one really pushing for extending those rights, and that independent lobbyists from the USA as well as other countries had to rally support from such far shots as Libya in order to oppose the worst extensions...

    Then the U.S. delegates ran back to Washington, asking Congress to upgrade U.S. legislation to come at par with "international standards". Nice touch, isn't it?

    And, you are absolutely right about extending the term of copyright protection for already existing works. The authors agreed to write those books under the terms in effect back then, and were duly paid for it. Neither they, their heirs, or their publisher have any ethical standing coming back to ask for more. They shouldn't have any legal standing either.

  • >America was built on the concept of freedom, and I can't think of anywhere in the world were an individual has more freedom.

    No country in the world has nearly as a high a percentage of its population in prison as the U.S.

    We're number one!
  • >Do you want to look at the fact that we have a high population of prison inmates, or the fact that we invented electricity or sent a man to the moon.

    I want to look at both. The problem with patriotism is that too often, it colors one's views of right and wrong. I want honest questioning of what we do and who we support, and their effects on the world. Unfortunately, in the era of sound bites, this is difficult.
  • OK, let's say I spend a bunch of money on chemistry research and come up with a great new drug. Should I be able to patent that, so that I can make my money back?

    Ahhh! You have discovered the fundamental flaw in capitalism! It's just about making money. Making money for who, you ask? The people who had money to fund the research in the first place.

    As most of you should be capable of realizing, this is ultimately destructive. We need to figure out some way to make civilization work when our interests are simply human progress and personal happiness. Perhaps something like a gift economy, eco-economics, or cooperatives.... sound familiar?
    Why it's the very foundation of Free Software!
  • Lets look at this from a different perspective, one that I happen to actually be _personally_ familiar with.

    Me too! I'm a biochemist and my brother's diabetic.

    Imagine that you are a business man / scientist who is trying to develop a glucose sensor and injection pump for Diabetics. Such an innovation will have a profound impact on the lives of diabetics, and will also expected to _dramatically_ improve the health of the diabetic user.

    And the pump is going to get done _dramatically_ faster if people share their work. The whole cathedral and the bazaar thing applies to more than just software. Obviously there is a higher level of infrastructure needed for biomedical research than kernel development, but there doesn't necessarily have to be.
    I'll bet Microsoft would say it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to develop an OS, while we all know that it only takes a lot of motivated people contributing a little of their time.
    We can do a similar thing for science in general. The only missing piece is easy access to tools, and at a university, even that isn't too hard.

    The greater the risk, the higher the rewards must be.

    WHY DOES THE REWARD HAVE TO BE MONEY? Why does the reward go primarily to the person who funded the research, rather than the actual people who did it?
    This is competitive and wasteful! We are capable of much more if we would just cooperate. Call me a communist or socialist if you like, but I prefer to call it humanism. As in, let's make things better, not for my personal greed or dreams of excessive wealth, but just in the interests of happiness and greater understanding.

    Who in their right minds is going to risk their own money if they simply cant suceed playing the averages. Some of you might even offer a more reasonable solution. Lets just allow them to 'double' their money, but this doesnt cut it. As the risks are far too great to risk it over only 200% gain, not to mention the time wasted.

    What kind of fucking self-absorbed, materialistic hell do you live in?
    You wouldn't pursue a cure for cancer because you might lose some MONEY?
    If you have any new ideas on the topic, let me know, as I can put you in contact with a few thousand people who would be willing to sacrifice everything to research a potential cure.

    You see this all comes down to intellectual property.

    Yes it sure does. It all comes down to the wasteful, selfish, non-cooperative, proprietary waste of resources known as intellectual property.

    But such fruits might very well only be reaped if alot of time and money is thrown at it.

    Money is nothing more than our material representation of time, and there are a lot of people with plenty of time. We just need a way for people to work together for once, rather than working for their venture capitalists and stock holders.

    Because that's what my mortgage company, grocery store, computer store, and ISP want.

    You sort of missed the point.
    The problem is just capitalism in general. The reward for all progress doesn't have to be mounds of money, but the nature of our economy requires that. We all work for money. It funds the companies which employ us, and in return we try to repay that investment with interest by succeeding. Tell me you wouldn't work to find a cure for cancer at a mere $70,000 a year, just because you wouldn't make billions off of it if you got it first. What's more important: being rich or making the world a better place?

    And no amount of righteous indignation is going to change that.

    Perhaps, but then what will? As a civilization, we're on a bad course. I hope we can correct that before it's too late. Doesn't it worry you that a business is only consider successful if it continues to grow? The general belief that capitalism works is grounded upon the misconception that only superior products will make you money. But successful companies can easily succeed just making selling an inferior product to a larger market, and convince that a standard is the way to go. Eventually perhaps, the superior product wins out, but in the meantime, enormous amounts of money, time, and resources are wasted. I vote for progress over commercial success. Maybe the two can coincide, but I'm don't want to bet the future of our species on it.

    Given that you equate money and time, are you spending all your free time on a cure for cancer or another equally altruistic goal? No, you're spending at least some of it reading Slashdot.

    As only a biochem undergrad, who has not studied cancer in any great detail, I'm afraid I can offer little assistance at this point. However, my comment was in reference to a hypothetical person who has a new, potentially useful idea. And I ask, what kind of person would sit on that until they had adequate confidence they would be able to make a 200% return on the investment of their time and money?
    As for my free time, I do not mean to imply that you should dedicate every moment and every dollar to any idea of potential significance. I volunteer. I do lab research. I contribute to free software. And if I can across some idea of unbelievable importance of which I could further, I'm more than prepared to dedicate my time and energy to that end.

    Maybe I was too indignant in my first post, but all I'm saying is that we shouldn't be working in the interest of money. Ideally, we would work in the interests of progress, and that resources necessary for our own happiness and health would be provided. It's possible, we just need to change the focus of our economy.
  • Nostradamous predicted something like this didn't he? someone owning knowledge or some BS like that? Jesus, prophets suck :( anyway, it looks like we are all screwed.
  • Seen the poverty even in supposedly developed cities such as Paris. There are far more homeless, far more unemployeed.

    Ok.. let's see your proof. I don't know whether France has a higher unemployment level than the U.S. or not, but if you're going to ask others for proof, then you should provide proof to support your own statements. Frankly, I don't really care which country has the higher unemployment. There are many more things involved in whether a country becomes successful or not. IP is just one of many, but you talk as if it is the make or break factor.

    Lets just review IP quickly. If you where to kill IP as we know it. The following jobs would be destroyed:

    Wrong. If IP as we know it was killed, something would take it's place. That's the point here. IP law doesn't have to be killed off altogether. It does however need to be fixed so that it's possible for more than a handful of companies to make real progress in this country.

    3) Authors. Companies like O'Reilly would not exist. Tom Clancy, Grisham, Follet, etc either. Any publisher could just steal their work and publish it themselves for a couple bucks. Such work does not come cheap.

    Here you're talking about copyright. That's a different subject. Actually, I think that people try to patent AND copyright software. That's just plain stupid. Either it's an original work of art and can be copyrighted or it's an invention of a process or device and can be patented. I don't see how they can have it both ways.

  • Most winners are winners because they are optimistic, proactive, take-charge kinds of people. They have this attitude in whatever they do, and not surprisingly they usually succeed. Most losers on the other hand are losers because they are pessimistic, reactive, and think the world is out to get them. This attitued gets them nothing but failure, which of course they blame on bad luck.

    You talk as if everyone started at the same level. I'd have to dig to see if any research on this has been done, but I'll bet that at least a majority of the top 2% in this country came from wealthy families. The rich get richer. It doesn't even take a whole lot of smarts. You can hire people for that. They'll make you richer just so they can get a little piece of it.

    I won't argue that some people get rich through hard work and a good attitude. I just think that alot more get rich because they started off with alot more than most.

  • Patenting genes is like trying to patent electricity or hair or something else that was never invented. They are discovered. You could patent processes such as forms of gene therapy, but nobody should ever be allowed to patent any gene. Of course I don't know why the government would ever let something like reason stand in the way of making money.

  • no this is wonderful: there are huge barriers-to-entry on conventional patents on (say) industrial processes, huge capital is required, massive r&d, blah blah blah

    but all you need to create a new algorithm is a brain, a bit of thought and even the most basic kit to play with. so this is one more blow for freedom!!!
  • please post proof of the allegation you make about gates, otherwise you're just another random bigot ranting.
  • he *bought*
  • Yes, but the duplication of a piece of paper money lessens the worth of the money in existence (indirectly via inflation.) Whereas duplication of a piece of paper with an idea written on it makes sod all difference to anybody - save that more people can read it.
  • > Forget "should." Be pragmatic, and think about "is."


  • I'm afraid you're the one talking out of his whatever: Trickling down does not exist. Even CNN recognises that the wealth gap in the US is increasing, not decreasing. Patents sure as hell did not build our civilisation based on Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Chinese (paper money), arab (numerals), indian (number 0), etc civilisations. The most important discoveries of this century are not patented (Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, etc). US citizens may be wealthier on average, but not if you get rid of the top 5% of this nation (who own 95% of the stock market for instance). Patents are ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY. I've worked for large corporations, and I know damn well that the main reason for failure is inability to sell, internal inefficiencies (like 95% of the company waiting on group X to do something when they could jump in and help), slow time to market, crap implementation, etc. So don't give me your nonsense and read up some REAL FACTS, not just what your economics prof is brainwashing you with.
  • What is a corporation? It's a collection of people working together in pursuit of common goals. If the group comes up with the new idea, the group gets the patent. What's wrong with that?

    Bull. It's a few people at the top making inane decisions, often completely misguided and the corporation only survives due to gov't handouts^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Pentagon grants, and people at the bottom who just are employed and want to get on with their lives. Come off it, the chances of firing Mr Normal when he makes a bad decision (or implements one from above) are way higher than the chances Mr High Executive gets fired: "Oh, X did badly... He obviously has incompetent people below him. Let's promote him so that he has a team that can perform his vision". Yah! We're all equal in happy corporations!

  • Sengan, the whole idea is to _become_ a member of that 2% that worries you so.

  • by marcus ( 1916 )
    Quote from above: "...the wealthy 2 percent of people". You would not have phased your question in the third person if you were referring to yourself.
  • On the subject of grammar, I agree and concede.

    On the content, I contest.

    Do you really trust yourself less than you trust the "other"? While I do not contend that I am perfect for the position of "owning the world", I would much prefer to have my own ass in that seat than some unknown, partially known, or completely undefined "other".

    OTO point, sometimes it is good to have a small number of people or even one person in the seat(s) of power. Perhaps now is the time; perhaps it is not. There have been many discussions on forms of government, procedures, options, actions, and such. In any case, there is one straightforward method for both improving your own position and ensuring that the power does not become too concentrated. That is to participate. Read your news sources, vote, campaign, buy stock, sell stock, build your own corporation, live a life, teach your ideals to your kids and neighbors. Hold some of that power in your own hands and dole it out to those that you deem to be fit to wield it. Too many people refuse to exercise the authority that they have. Too many choose to sit around and complain.

    Thanks for the post, there were some good threads generated and a refreshingly low AC noise level. Pounce on me here: if you want to continue this offline.

  • Even the pun!
    Too often a jab like that produces no response or just more noise. I am pleased. Congratulations to you and your (history) ;-) teachers.
  • ...and I can see that I am not the only one!
  • The only way to patent an algorithm in Sweden is to build a machine that does the stuff. As a not-so-bad bonus, you get a lot of cute chicks that actually have an IQ that is *not* below a wet brick.
  • Whatever happened about not being able to patent an idea? That's all software is!

    However, there's a loophole. Notice that in order for an algorithm to be patented, it must produce a "useful, concrete and tangible" result. Now, most algorithms produce useful results, and many produce concrete ones. But it is physically impossible for anything tangible to arise from a non-tangible object, including algorithms.

    In other words, it looks as though the Supreme Court might just be sticking its foot in its mouth with this one. In effect it renders all software patents invalid because no algorithm can produce a tangible result (well, I suppose you could say printer drivers create tangible results, but that's it).

    Eat that, Big Business.
  • After all, it's the last hope of preventing informational totalitarianism by Big Business (or big Brother).
  • I think I might go for trying to patent some critical element of a computer and/or software. Then I'd grant free licenses to everyone except Microsoft.

    Come to think of it, IBM recently patented the wheel; maybe I'll go patent fire. Or the lever even.
  • This line made me think that people couldn't win that silly clock game on the "Price Is Right" or they'd have to pay a royalty like five boxes of Rice A Roni.

  • Incase you aren't aware of this, software patents are not used by small developers edging into the market. Their purpose is to forward the Microsofts and Apples of the world in squashing the Linuxes and FreeBSDs of the world.

    Software patents are all bad, unconditionally. It's stupid to patent a book, a painting, and yes, an algorythm. Imagin paying royalties everytime you added numbers or thought of a squar root in your head.

    Let's face it, this is a Microsoft win. The Supreme Court makes some good decisions (CDA) and some that make you question of Supreme Court members are really smarter than the average lab monkey.

    No, it's not the court that decides if a law if fair, just interprets that law. And it's pretty damned obvious that patent law doesn't include algorithms, and algorthyms are damned well free speech.

    It's a clear contradiction that something can be both patented and copyrighted. It's so obvious, that I'm prone to suspect bribes could have been involved, because generally that court doesn't rule wrongly on incontrovertible cases like this one.

    Damn them all. Boycott all companies that ever patented software. That's inexcuseable. To hell with 'em. Maybe we should all move to Sweden, where IQ's are in the positive range on this matter.
  • Intellectual property is an oximoron. It's a contradiction of basic human rights. Saying one should be able to own a thought, something non-tangible, is a lie planted by a very few who wish to control society.

    Intellectual Property... Absolute bullshit.
  • EXCUSE ME. Okay, our Supreme Court blunders.

    I'd like to point out however, we have one of the FEW gov't's in the world that readily accepts freedom of speech, etc... So the SC rules on civil liberty down. How many do you have?

    Furthermore, I'd like to point out that you'd be in a horse and carrage, using an out house, and not know about electricity without Americans. You'd be primitive enough not to know what computer algorithms are.
  • The topic says "Supreme Court Rules Algorithms Can Be Patented." That is not correct. The Supreme Court refused to even look at the case. This means that they have not issued any ruling on it, and means that they may still rule on it in the future.
  • Actually, things were better in the US until the lastest trade negotiation round where the US
    caved in^H^H^H^H agreed to be more like the rest of the world and allow patents on math like the
    rest of the world was already doing.

    Maybe people should check the laws in their own countries before complaining about the US.
  • Think this is good for the "little guy"? Check

    what it takes to get a patent nowdays. It involves multiple thosands of dollars just to submit it. Even worse if you create it and do not patent. Then some big company can patent it from under you and sue you for patent infringement.

    For more information as to why the USPO needs to be fscked, see Phil Karn's page [].

  • Except for those of us who's IP is owned by the
    companies we work for. The company I work for
    Made me sign a statement that anything I come up with while I work for them belongs to them, if it is in an area that they are or plan to compete in.
  • I don't think US will never ever change _their_ laws to match _others_. They'l change the other's to match theirs.
    Depends on where the money is. For instance, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which just went into effect was written for the express purpose of bringing US Copyright law into conformity with those of other countries. This worked because almost all of the provisions of DMCA will benefit the Copyright holders. Nevermind that the whole point of Copyright law was to promote the useful arts and sciences by requiring that works enter the public domain after a period of time.

    But the copyright owners keep lobbying for longer copyright terms, and more rights to restrict the use of their works. I'm starting to doubt that Disney works like Fantasia and Snow White will EVER be allowed to lapse into the public domain; the lawyers will keep extending the term by 25 years here, 50 years there.

    Imagine if all of the great works of literature from Roman times were still copyrighted by big corporations! That seems to be where we're headed, and I don't think it's a good idea.


  • I guess now the Patent Office will wind up researching which algorithms are and which aren't prior existing / public domain. I think this is gonna be a goatf**k.
  • "It's in Art. 1 of the constitution, and only Congress can change it."
    Demand a refund from your law school.
    See Article 5 of the Constitution. Two thirds of the State Legislatures can force Congress to call a Convention for proposing Amendments and although Congress gets to chose which one of the two allowed Modes of Ratification is used, both are done by the States, and not Congress.(Caps in the style of the original)
  • Without protection for intellectual property, where's the reward for our labor? At least patents don't last 75 - 100 years, like copyrights.

    It's easy to complain about not being a part of the supposed 2% class, but few of us really take the risks and put in the time needed to get there.
  • It don't the Swedish politicans are that smart, smart and high IQ in this matter is something you can't give them credit for.

    The usall way do hadle this matter in Sweden is to create a new lay that are almost the same as the version in the US. With the arguments that US is a leding technology contry, everything they do MUST be right. I recomend that you leave for finland or south-africa instead. They still have a little more clear view in this matters.

    We jst got a new nice law over here that sais if I use your name inb this post I have to get a written statement from you that it is ok and you don't mind me using your name in a database.
  • dude, can't you see that TheMan has bought your soul?
    How does it feel to be a soulless human?

    intellectual property is for pigs and sheep.
    the sheep follow the pigs.
    over the cliff.
    to death.
  • The supreme court needs to have some sense slapped into them.
  • If you happen to already have enough wealth. If you happen to live in the first world. If you aren't part of the bottom 60% of the population of the world that can never really gain entry into that class.

    Your answer is not unlike that of the Inquisitors who told the jews they were torturing that all they had to do was become baptized.
  • A ridiculous response.

    I have becoming frustrated with plutocratic first-world geeks who have absolutely no clue nor care for the effects of their gimme-gimme attitude on the rest of the planet. Every so often, history convulses, and a good chunk of the 98% merrily starts shooting that 2% you envy and justify so gleefully. I think such a convulsion is impending. I can't say that I'll weep for those that are shot.
  • The truth is that he doesn't "trade-trade"; he accumulates property (such as money) on a "it's mine, I keep *or do what I want with it*" basis, yet if I buy software as it is currently sold, I don't have the same sort of rights.

    One of the ironies of a laissez-faireist defense of IP is that IP violates most of the rules of property actually used to defend LF.
  • This is a really bad thing methinks. Since my country is part of APEC, that means that these stupid decisions will probably apply to us too. And then we'll have all of the terrible scenarios that the League for Programming Freedom [] has on their website. Fact is, the power to make laws over the things we care about is in the hands of people who know absolutely nothing about what they're doing, and have no idea of the real consequences of their decisions. "The breaking apart is fundamentally the schizoid and schismatic mental fugue of lawyer-politicians attempting to administrate a worldwide technology whose mechanisms they lack the education to comprehend and whose gestalttrend (sic) they frustrate by breaking apart into obsolete Renaissance nation-states." -- Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Eye in the Pyramid
  • The court refused to review the case, which is not the same as ruling in favor of algorithm patents. As this stands, the decision changes nothing (except our hopes that an asinine law might be overturned). Also, I'm on my way out to patent "and". It will now be referred to as "AND(tm)". The AND(tm) function will be available for licensing along with the forthcoming OR(tm), XOR(tm), and NOT(tm) by the middle of next year...
    Happy programming
  • 1.US Patent law only permits the actual person who invented/discovered the idea to register a patent.

    Not true.
    (a) Patents are transferable, and
    (b) The patent office do not have the technical knowledge to discover who "really" invented an idea. A glaring example: IBM have a patent on finite state automata. My bet is that a lot of modern mathematics and computer science ( including that which pre-dates the granting of the patent some time in the 90s by more than 50 years ) violates this patent

    2.In the broader sense, patents encourage the free distribution of knowledge.

    This is nonsense. Contrarily, frivilous patents serve little purpose but to make invention illegal. For example, if mathematicians did not use the "idea" of finite state automata in any of their proofs , a lot of modern mathematics simply wouldn't exist.


  • Do you have a more specific reference, such as a patent description?

    unfortunately, no. As you point out, it is possible that the patent is fairly specific. However, it seems somewhat plausible that those working in the patent office would be completely ignorant regarding mathematical ( and comp sci ) academic literature published in the second half of the 20th century.

    I agree that patents on hardware aren't as obviously destructive as patents on algorithms. Most of my arguments about algorithms don't apply as obviously to other things ( the fact that patents on algorithms can act as obstructions to scientific reasoning don't seem as applicable to a patent on hardware processes. )

  • Well, you should be able to patent the drug itself. No one here wants to argue that. You have every right to do with it as you see fit, since it is your creation. Just like software licensing.

    But you should _not_ be able to patent the processes that led you to making this product. For example, if you used an advanced filtering technique to purify one of your chemicals used in the drug, then you should not be able to patent that. Boy, that sounds like an algorithm.

    Before you say "If I gave away the secrets to creating my drug then someone will recreate it". Well, if they used the same techniques to produce the same drug, then they wouldn't be able to do much with it. You've got the patent for the drug.

    Thus you make your money and the algorithms are free. That way others can take the algorithms you used and create a different product.
    Read the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in it will you find that patents were meant to allow people to make money.
  • which everyone already decided Canada
    is -- yipee

    Ah yes. Canada. That's that bit of natural resources were keeping in reserve to the North. Thanks for keeping it in order though.

  • Reminds me of the classic "Onion" article []
  • The original idea of the patent system was to promote progress and innovation, and the free disclosure of ideas.

    I don't think software patents, "business model patents," or patents on mathematical algorithms will increase the pace of innovation. It doesn't take a lot of capital to make a new algorithm, and people don't do this sort of computer science because they plan to patent it. This sort of patent simply lines the pockets of companies that would have made the same "inventions" anyway.

    I'm really afraid of what the effects of increasing use of software patents will be on the rate of progress. Programmers come up with new algorithms continually as they work, but now they are going to have to be constantly looking over their shoulders to see if they are infringing on anyone's patents. All the big companies will have cross-licensing agreements with each other, but small companies and individual developers will be left out in the cold. This isn't good for programmers, users, or the economy in the long run.

    Free software is screwed the worst, since it has no revenues to cover patent licensing fees.

    What makes it even worse is that the patent office has no hope of weeding out patents for ideas that have prior art or are obvious. (Any competent computer scientist can get a better job than patent clerk.) This is why we get patents on things like "Save As" and web spiders (i.e. depth-first search). Even if the patent is bad, there's no way that individuals and small companies can afford to defend themselves in court.

    Whatever happened to the League for Programming Freedom (an anti-software-patent lobbying organization)?

  • The big software companies have too much influence on Congress for them to change the patent legislation on their own. My only hope is that other countries don't allow this sort of patent, and that competition from them will force the US to change its laws to match.
  • The place to get this changed is Congress--they need to pass a revision to patent law making it clear that software, algorithms, and similar things are not patentable.

    All the courts are supposed to do is interpret existing law. If they decide that existing law makes software patentable, then it is the court's duty to enforce it (even if it is bad for the economy, and for a host of other reasons).

    On the other hand, my impression is that judges "legislating from the bench" are what got us into this mess. Patent legislation hasn't changed--the courts have only recently decided to "interpret" it to cover software etc. If they just went back to a strict interpretation we'd be fine, but it would be better if the law's wording were black and white on this issue.

  • IP rights are founded on the notion that competition feeds growth in sciences and arts. A fundamental value in our laws is that people are self-interested and not altruistic. No Supreme Court decision could change that. Organize and revise the constitution. It's in Art. 1 of the constitution, and only Congress can change it. One thing is for sure, no amount of complaining on slashdot will change anything. I don't like it either, but it is not an issue that directly effects my industry, I'm more concerned and am active in the criminal law area. The point is, it takes action; action takes organisation; organisation takes planning; planning takes initiative; initiative takes concern. All we have so far is concern. There is a long way to go.
  • you willing to do for me? Probably nothing. You'd probably get mad if I asked for compensation say if I spent one year of my life defending your rights in court. Lawyers have a bad rap, buy many will work day and night on a single case for years. Some lawyers care. You don't hear lawyers hating you? Y'all are a bunch of bitch ass player haters fashow...
  • Ya Canada is cool if you want a quiet boring life, with people that act kind of American and kind of British. Get an identity... What's your favorite TV show, don't watch TV. All your favorite musicians are canadian right?

    I like Hip Hop (American), Jazz (American), and computers (American), light bulbs (American), peanut butter (American), etc. America has problems, but they are big baller problems, not little sucker problems. Oh my God, Quebec might separate. Who gives a shit. You know so much about America. I know more about Mexico (which is very cool). Canadians are more pompous than british if that is possible. I usually do not engage in stereotypes, I have cousins in Vancouver, but I'm tired of bitchy complainers from countries with no sun.

    I'm in sunny California baby, surf's up dude, the killa kali breaze, etc...
  • Ya Canada is cool if you want a quiet boring life, with people that act kind of American and kind of British. Get an identity... What's your favorite TV show, don't watch TV. All your favorite musicians are canadian right?

    I like Hip Hop (American), Jazz (American), and computers (American), light bulbs (American), peanut butter (American), etc. America has problems, but they are big baller problems, not little sucker problems. Oh my God, Quebec might separate. Who gives a shit. You know so much about America. I know more about Mexico (which is very cool). Canadians are more pompous than british if that is possible. I usually do not engage in stereotypes, I have cousins in Vancouver, but I'm tired of bitchy complainers from countries with no sun.

    I'm in sunny California baby, surf's up dude, the killa kali breaze, etc... biiiiaaaaaayyaach
  • That was a pretty good try, but the tangible results outcome is not used by the court anymore, no matter what this article said. That requirement is not part of the statute, and the court dropped it because it was judge-made law. Now they effect the clear letter of the law "any process"... may be patented.
  • This country kicks ass in the prision department...
    Highest % of the total population in prision.
    Highest % of minorities in a prision population.
    Highest % of juveniles in prision.
    I love living in the land of the free.
    You know, thanks to various substances being illegal, we probably have the highest % of criminals outside of prision too.

    A certified hippy...

  • Do you really think that the scientists actually have patents on the stuff they create? It's the companies which the scientists that own what's produced most of the time. The scientists dont get shit, and most of the time, they really dont care that much. Scientists are, for the most part, more concerned with research and development of concepts than trying to greedily milk every last penny out of an idea.

    It's the companies who will benefit, and thus, the stockholders, and thus, the economy. If it benefits the economy, then how can it be illegal? It's really sad the way the world goes today, disregarding all considerations in pursuit of the sacred cow of economic prosperity. Oh well, I'm sure there'll be some revolution before it gets that bad.. and you just wait, heads will roll ;)

    - Laxitive
  • Maybe you need to read the GPL. it sounds to me like you don't believe in it. If you don't, you are obviously a corporate pig and have nothing to gain, but plenty to hurt, by being on slashdot.
    You say it is bad to be raped of your ideas. I agree completely. But patents are all about government protection for raping of ideas. In the course of developing a piece of software, I come up with an algorithm. If I didn't have to invent a new algorithm, then I could just buy another program that implements that. UNfortunately, any aspect of my program has the possibility of being owned by someone else, even though I created it. The patent owner got the patent office first. That doesn't mean they invented it, or they should have the right to rape everyone else in the entire world of this invention.
    In short, go shoot yourself, you are a pimple on the otherwise freedom-fighting slashdot.
  • Sure, you may make intellectual property. More likely you steal it from employees or secretly from a gpl'd program.
    But you certainly do not trade. You 'trade' ungodly amounts of money for the priviledge of letting them use a copy of the program on their hardware.
    In short, you have gained money, but given away nothing. If you were really trading you would hand over all rights to the program instead of merely the right to use a copy. Obviously that would be idiotic, thousands of people could benefit from the one program, why make a new one each time? Well, if you aren't giving something you shouldn't expect money in return. Yes, i know there are costs involved in the box, manuals, and cd's, but that isn't near the price of software. So you would say, how about the price of developing the software? Well, since people can choose to ignore the laws, this kind of law isn't really enforceable when done privately in ones own home. Therefore, when you create intellectual property, it is owned by everyone, you only created it.
  • This is to announce that I've just patented the algorithm that describes the double helix layout of DNA. If all you people out there pay me the standard royalty fee of $100,000 a head, I won't have to take action. Otherwise, my associates will be over shortly to remove every strand of DNA from your body that infringes on MY patent.

    Have a nice day...

  • Uh-huh, yep, that's right, America invented electricity.


    Okay, so maybe electricity was discovered by an American, but what was the nationality of the scientist who discovered how to produce electricity?
  • "Canadians are more pompous than british if that is possible..."
    "I usually do not engage in stereotypes"

    Well there's two for you and if you're prepared to dismiss two entire nations of people as being pompous in one sentence, then I think you might well be inclined to stereotyping.

    Doubtless the suggestion that Brits are pompous is based on shitty American T.V. series/films with badly portrayed Brits in, or based on the fact that you're an American and you find that Brits slag you off on a regular basis. Hey, that ain't just Britain, mate, that's the rest of the world.
  • And why is it that most patents aren't owned by single persons, but large corporations?

    What is a corporation? It's a collection of people working together in pursuit of common goals. If the group comes up with the new idea, the group gets the patent. What's wrong with that?

    You're assuming that the entity that created the idea is the one who holds the patent; the original comment wasn't that large corporations are creating all of the ideas that are being patented, only that they hold the patents to those ideas.

    Isn't this what everyone accuses Microsoft of doing -- buying up smaller companies that have products or technologies they can implement?

    Jay (=
  • ..cause my thesis research has potentially very, very interesting algorithm for investment people...
    ..of course University lawers can screw it up, I signed up something..
    .. but I can do it like a year later.. so no prior art for them..
  • The essential thing of it is, you cannot own an idea, and merely defining laws which claim ownership don't change this fact. Look at software piracy for proof. In fact, asserting legal ownership over information merely provokes others to prove that they can access the information equally, patent notwithstanding. Witness software piracy, or DSS hacking. Let 'em keep adding weight to the whole IP system, it'll just collapse sooner.

    One with ordinary skill in the art.
  • > I don't think the American system is the
    > perfect system (there could never be such a
    > thing), but it is the best system

    Don't get out much, do you? Out of the country, that is. The American system (USofA that is) is adequate for many things. It is not only not perfect, it is a far cry from the "best" system worldwide. Depending on your criteria a number of other places come to mind (Western Europe, Australia, Japan, etc., depending on your personal criteria).

    Pros of America:
    1) Things are cheap and plentiful
    2) Laws are kind to private pilots ... I can afford my airplane here and I couldn't in Europe, because Europe erroneously thinks flying should be for the rich. OK, so I can't afford a car and a plane -- goodbye car. At least here I have the choice.
    3) Economy is booming -- I can make lots of money as a technically proficient individual, despite my poor spelling abilities. This may change, but right now it rocks to live here financially.
    4) More individual freedom -- if being allowed to own and carry a gun is an important criterion (depends on the state -- for me this is a non-issue, but for others a virtual religion)
    5) Less history -- less of a morass for us to fall into a la' Bosnia and Kosovo. Of course, if we don't put an end to racial hatred this will eventually change.
    6) Peope are good -- for the most part.

    Pros of living elsewhere
    1) More individual freedom (if not being arrested for drinking beer in a park or smoking marijuana in a coffee shop, and not being put in prison for engaging in unusual but consentual sexual activities is important to you)
    2) More ready access to "high" culture -- in the form of pervasive architecture (not too many strip malls in Europe for example), widespread theater and arts (these exist in America of course, but are restricted to a far smaller percentage of the polulation than in many other places), and so on.
    3) Better food and better beer/wine (again, on average -- the elite in America can get the good stuff too, but elsewhere a DM 5,- of wine is as tasty as a $30.00 bottle in the states)
    4) Longer history -- providing an ambience which is hard to describe to those who haven't experienced it. Of course, as noted before this can have a down side (a la' Isreal/Palistine, India/Pakistan, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.)
    5) Better mass transit -- cars tend to cost more, but the average person has more mobility for less money in many other places than the States.
    6) Better encryption laws -- most places don't persue foolish policies of trying to legislate activities outside of their own boarders. Ditto for patent laws, despite Waasenaar's efforts to the contrary.
    7) Lack of Superpower Status -- sometimes it is so nice to reside in a place that isn't perpetually belligerant.
    8) People are good -- for the most part.

    Cons to living anywhere on Earth:
    1) A small minority of loud-mouthed idiots wax selfrighteous about how their country/society/way of doing things is inherently superior to that of the rest of the planet.
    2) The population is raging out of control and we're all gonna die anyway. :-)

    Seriously, though, it behooves you to get out more and investigate the alternatives, rather than simply spewing the propogandistic dogma we've had drilled into us since childhood. You'll be very pleasantly surprised at what you find out there.
  • If you incorporate, where is the income going to come from? You said "Buy stocks", but the tax rates on investment corporations (forget the actual term) are quite high (a result of millionaires incorporating their portfolios back in the 80s). So, you can work for yourself. Personal service corporations have higher taxes as well. So, you go sub-S, and pay taxes just the same as if you earned it.

    BD - who owns a corp (it's no solution, but it's nice to work "for yourself")
  • The House was always directly elected. And the president is elected by the Electoral College (where I got my BA, no, not really)
  • Well, I read your post carefully. It's rather obvious that you can't have total personal freedom when that freedom impinges on someone else's freedom. I think it's totally irrelevant in an argument about victimless crimes (a crime which the other poster pointed out was created to protect the interests of the wealthy).

    end of rant..
  • Not too remote. It's expensive running that fiber cable underwater ;-)

Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it. -- William Buckley