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

Richard O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Sun Apr 18 23:09:42 EDT 2010

When it comes to patents, there is less than meets the eye.
A review of Intellectual Property in New Zealand a few years
ago found that the NZ Intellectual Property Office quite
deliberately do not review patent applications for originality.
An IP law expert I spoke to about this felt that there was no
problem, because patents that failed the originality criterion
would fail in court.  It didn't seem to bother him that
defending yourself costs money.  He was also untroubled that
computer science professionals find most software patents
incomprehensible; again, such patents fail a basic requirement
so it should all be cleared up in court (and of course we can
all afford that).

The Australians recently conducted an experiment asking volunteers
to check for prior art.  The patent application I commented on
claimed the invention of doing whole number arithmetic in a
computer using "big digits" to base (10**max) where (10**max) just
fits into a computer word.  This of course goes back to _at least_
the 1960s.

The people who claimed this particular patent may well have
perfectly innocent intentions:  they may not be trying to block
anyone else doing obvious things, they may be trying to protect
themselves against being blocked.  The only way to tell, really,
is to find out what they want for a licence to use "their"

The current review of New Zealand IP protection may well scrap
software patents entirely, in part on the grounds that we cannot
afford to do a proper job of scrutiny.

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