[Haskell-cafe] US Patent for the idea of using Haskell to implement UAX #9

Brian Hulley brianh at metamilk.com
Fri Apr 16 14:50:25 EDT 2010

Hi everyone,
It's been a long time since I last posted to this list since I'm 
currently working on something that is not directly Haskell-related, but 
it still relates to functional programming in general.

Anyway imagine my surprise when an innocent search for some keywords (I 
can't remember the exact ones but the following gives similar results)

    haskell unicode bidirectional

revealed a link to a US Patent (7120900) for the idea of implementing 
the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (UAX #9 
http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr9) in Haskell, making use, as far as I 
can tell, of nothing more than the normal approach any functional 
programmer would use, namely separation of concerns etc.

The link is http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7120900.html though I think 
it would be better if they had just called the website "free handcuffs 
online" because that is what it amounts to when people succeed in 
preventing others from using ideas, especially ideas everyone would 
easily think up by themselves.

Before going further I would like to explicitly state that I would not 
wish to cast any aspersions upon the people or companies involved in 
this patent, since it is all too clear to me that these people have 
acted in a perfectly legal way and are just doing their various jobs: in 
other words it's an "I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok..." kind of scenario: 
everyone probably thinks of themsevles as being a perfectly nice 
upstanding person, and if I met any of them face to face I'm sure I 
would find that they are *indeed* really nice friendly people who 
believe that they are doing absolutely the right and logical thing.

In fact many nice people I myself have talked to about my own ideas 
immediately suggest that I should "obviously" patent them: it takes a 
long time to explain to them why this would not actually further my 
goals at all, and it is difficult for them to understand my explanation 
because the problem is rather too subtle for people who have not already 
been thinking along these lines for a while.

However all this does not affect the problem that this patent acts as a 
brick in the general structural evil in our world today: anyone who is 
trying to create a programming language environment that is accessible 
to people who use right-to-left languages is now between a rock and a 
hard place when it comes to implementing UAX #9, the standard Unicode 
algorithm for implementing the Unicode semantics of bidirectional text.

In this particular case, I expect (but I'm not a lawyer so please don't 
take this as solid advice: it's just a hope) that a workaround for 
Haskell programmers would be to discard their natural desire to use a 
functional approach and instead just implement UAX #9 verbatim using the 
ST monad. (The patent also tries to extend itself to other functional 
languages so caution is needed all round.)

But although the above workaround *might* be legal in this particular 
instance it seems to me that as programmers we must not just let our 
craft be dominated by the psychopathic tendencies of certain elements in 
society that work hard to try to squash the ``normals'' into a life of 
brutal misery while they rampage ruthlessly about with a biological 
inability to experience empathy for other human beings. (www.ponerology.com)

The memetic virus of psychopathy is rapidly spreading throughout human 
civilization and most people are not conscious enough of the elements 
that are contributing towards their own behaviour, thus ignoring the 
fact that the rice they eat for supper might have been picked by a tiny 
little girl in China with bleeding fingers or the carpet they walk on 
may have been made by a little 8 year old boy slave chained all day to a 
loom in a shed in India.

To this end I humbly appeal to everyone here to please help in the fight 
against software patents, so that we can begin the huge task of 
reclaiming our world for real people who understand that true meaning in 
life comes from extending our feeling of self into the world beyond our 
own body:


Thanks a lot for reading this,
Brian. [expecting to be crucified, but if it helps just one little girl 
or boy it will be worth it!]

Disclaimer: this email is entirely my responsibility and I am not acting 
on behalf of any of the above web sites.

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