[Haskell-cafe] Re: US Patent for the idea ...

Brian Hulley brianh at metamilk.com
Sat Apr 17 18:33:48 EDT 2010

Murray Gross wrote:
> On Sat, 17 Apr 2010, Brian Hulley wrote:
>>> see the patent 6,368,227. The search site is here:
>>> http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm
>>> Best regards.
>>> Jerzy Karczmarczuk
>>> ...
> It's really almost not fair to cite that particular patent, since, if I
> recall the story correctly (I may be wrong in small detail, but I am 
> sure of the general picture), that patent was filed by an attorney as a 
> demonstration to his son how the system works. It was never filed as a 
> serious patent. Yes, it may show how poorly the examiners are doing 
> their job, but I think this particular patent really doesn't reflect on 
> the poor service we are currently receiving from the entire patent 
> system--I would like to think that the examiner knew perfectly well that 
> this patent was not serious and was willing to play along.

Hi Murray,
Point taken about patent 6,368,227.
I think in all fairness to examiners that in a way they have an 
impossible job due to the fact that what is a clever idea to one 
programmer will be a trivial idea to another: the field is so huge and 
people have such different experiences.

Coming back to patent 6,368,227 one could perhaps look past the humour 
and see it as a kind of indication of what the patent system is trying 
to do to humanity. I just mean to see this dispassionately as an image, 
and by "trying to do" I'm just anthropomorphizing what I see as a purely 
structural phenomenon that in itself is like a force of nature, that 
emerges from the inevitable incompleteness of people's understandings 
even if each person individually is trying to do what they feel is right.

In terms of a way forward for research companies I think there is a lot 
of well-paid work to be found in designing and implementing useful 
libraries of functionality, and then licensing them for inclusion in 
other programs.

After all, end users want a real implementation not just an idea, and it 
is surely much easier to trade implementations rather than to try to 
trade the rather nebulous concept of ideas.

This would allow programmers full freedom to implement whatever they 
like together with the clear advantage of being able to license well 
designed third-party libraries: we'd have total clarity and freedom.

Anyway I've said enough about software patents so I'll leave the 
discussion here and reiterate that all I want is for people to be able 
to write programs without a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

Cheers, Brian.

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