The process of vulcanization of rubber is approximately "raw rubber plus sulfur plus heat equals material with new properties". You have created something new by this process. The new physical material has different properties.
Sure, but just so that you're not moving the goalposts, realize that we're talking about a patent on the process of vulcanization, not the physical rubber. And that process is simply a mathematical algorithm, right?
Gear ratios are properties of physical objects that have a mathematical relationship. You don't patent a ratio, you patent a mechanism that may use those ratios to some effect.
You can also patent the method of transferring power via those gears (if it's a new and nonobvious process, of course). It's not just the machine that's patentable, but also the process... even though the process is merely a mathematical algorithm.
If the mechanism you have invented is a universal gearing system, then should someone who picks a particular gearing ratio because it is useful for some purpose that nobody noticed before deserve a patent on that ratio? I don't think that they should.
Why not? If they invented a brand new use for the ratio that no one ever noticed before, why shouldn't they receive a patent? They say build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door... you're saying "pfff, it's just wood and metal and springy bits. Nothing new about that."
...Good thing no one writes a patent claim that says "A method, comprising controlling computer hardware, period, the end" then, eh?...
It's extremely frustrating to me that people *do* write those claims...
... and don't have anyone pointing out that general purpose computers are designed to be able to carry out *any* calculation.
Sure, a Universal Turing Machine can carry out any calculation, by definition. So why didn't we have GTA V thirty years ago? Was it because people hadn't figured out to make those calculations yet? And it's not mere hardware limitations, or there'd have been no advances in game technology from the very first PS3 games to the newest ones, for example. No, people have figured out new and better ways to use the hardware that were never conceived of when the hardware was first built.
The processors, memory controllers, caches, etc that make up the computer are all patentable. They do stuff. Software is just math that controls how they turn a given input into an output.
A furnace does stuff. The timing algorithm for vulcanizing your rubber is just math that controls how that furnace will turn a given input into an output. But you agree that that's patentable.
I write software every day.
That was obvious. I'll never understand why programmers are so disparaging of their own inventions, but it's definitely common.
It's not magic, and absent a computer, you could still generate the output of a program, just not nearly as fast (which is why the general purpose computer is such a great invention).
Sure, but it's like that old joke about going to the doctor with an injury, he hits you with a hammer
and cures it, and gives you a bill for $500. $5 is for the hammer, the other $495 are knowing where to hit. Without the novel and innovative algorithm, that computer - or you with your pen and paper - just sit there doing nothing. So, while the computer, or your pen and paper, can be used to calculate the most amazing things ever, the mere existence of those tools doesn't mean that the resulting calculations are obvious.
...Here's a simple question - imagine the most novel, non-obvious bit of software ever. Like, some brand new algorithm that can losslessly compress even random data by 99%. Go nuts with imagining the details - point is, it's a revolutionary bit of code that no one has ever thought of, and it wins billions of awards and the keys to the city. Should it still be unpatentable, merely because it's software?...
Well, yes, it should be unpatentable. Just because my nifty new bit of math can be implemented quickly on a general-purpose computer, that doesn't make it an invention.
Well, by definition, it is an invention. You're just saying it shouldn't be protectable.
That's the thing about math...we *discover* mathematical ideas all the time. In software, we make use of them to some effect. That doesn't mean that because they're more complicated than a certain gearing ratio that they suddenly create a new machine when used.
No, I agree that the concept of "poof, it's a new machine" is a stupid one that the courts came up with to try to get around some earlier case law. But if we're talking policy and what the law should be, I think software should be patentable, with the carve-out that it shouldn't create thoughtcrimes by performing the same calculations mentally or on paper. This is what they were really trying to get to in Bilski, but they haven't figured it out completely yet: if you can infringe a claim mentally, and the patent owner can get an injunction to stop you from infringing, how do we force someone to stop thinking of something? It's not possible, nor should it be even up for debate. Diagnostic claims are similar - determine patient X has symptom Y, realize they have disease Z. That could be infringed merely by reading the patent, if it describes an example of patient X, since you'll realize that hypothetical patient X with symptom Y has disease Z. So we can't have that. But by requiring physical steps or devices in the claim, you can't possibly infringe mentally. This also fits with other areas of the law, such as criminal law, where thought must be coupled with action to create liability.
But you disagree... Why shouldn't your work be protectable from people wanting to duplicate it? And before you say "copyright", realize that only covers people who want to copy your specific code - if they want to reverse engineer it or code the same thing, copyright is useless. And before you say "first to market", realize that it's easy to hire a team of programmers to reverse engineer any product in two to three weeks, even if it took you years to write and debug.
Of course, there's another way your work could be protected - non-disclosure agreements, heavy handed licenses, cloud-processing everything so that no user has access to the full code, etc. I think you'll agree that that's a terrible result.