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Re: OT: How I learned to stop worrying and love software patents

On 7/24/05, Pedro A.D.Rezende <prezende@unb.br> wrote:
> Algorthms are, in a general sense, semiotics, for the step-by-step
> problem solving procedure processes data. When the processing is to be
> done by a digital computer, the instruction set in which the algorithm
> can be encoded sets and encloses, since Alan Turing's seminal work in
> the 1930's, the procedure into the realm of theoretical mathematics. And
> until Alonzo Church's thesis (cathegorizing this enclosure) is
> disproved, this enclosure is definite.

Yes, all very lovely, I've read Douglas Hofstadter's books too. 
Likewise, chemistry is physics and psychology is biology.  But that
doesn't tell us anything about the skills applied by practicioners in
the field (hint: most coders can't do Big O analysis, let alone solve
an integral), or about which "useful arts and sciences" the
Constitution authorizes Congress to encourage through the patent
monopoly.  If you want to understand how far a court is willing to go
with you along the "mathematics is in the realm of abstract ideas and
therefore unpatentable", you have to step from Church and Turing's
world into Von Neumann and T. J. Watson's.

> Either way, whether specifically as theoretical mathematics (via
> computers), or generally, for being semiotics, algorithms are in the
> domain of "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas"
> (refer to Charles Peirce, Ferdinand de Sausurre or Umberto Eco going
> back to 1867, only foourteen years later than the oldest quote allegedly
> paraphrased from Diehr)

Nice "allegedly" -- translates to "I didn't bother to check", right? 
My quote from Diehr (1981) was exact; the Diehr opinion in turn quotes
from various other cases back to Le Roy v. Tatham (1853).  Here's the
Diehr link again, for your convenience:
http://laws.findlaw.com/us/450/175.html .  Allow me to suggest that,
if you do read it this time in search of rebuttal material, you at
least read Section III of both opinion and dissent.  You might also
evaluate the merits of Judge Plager's response to the concerns raised
in Justice Stevens's Diehr dissent, found in Section D of AT&T v.
Excel ( http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/Fed/981338v2.html ).

In any case, the writings of the most respected of philosophers and
novelists are of less precedential value than the most pedestrian of
appellate court decisions.  It is entirely possible that policy-makers
in Brasil have drawn the line differently -- as is well within their
rights -- but to prove it to me you will need to show me how it works
in your courts.

- Michael

P. S.  Watch for a possible grant of certiorari in Laboratory Corp. of
America Holdings v. Metabolite Laboratories, Inc., which could be
followed by a Supreme Court ruling giving better guidance on the whole
"laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas" business from
Diehr.  The heads-up came from
http://www.ipfrontline.com/printtemplate.asp?id=4357 , which lists a
number of interesting upcoming decisions.

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