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Re: [dvd-discuss] Gedanken Experiment -Unix and Norton

The reason I think we should care about this issue, is until novel,
non-obvious algorithms can be protected.  Source code will not be
generally published, as the only protection these algorithms currently
have is "trade-secret".  A "from scratch" reimplementation of an
algorithm is on a derived work, from a copyright point of view
(especially if a clean room approach is used with Team A looking at the
code and documenting the algorithm with Team B implements).  Thus "to
promote progress" by reducing the number of trade secrets, one must
afford these trade secrets patent protection.  Correctly taking prior
art into account and setting a high standard for novelty and
non-obviousness would clearly be need.

microlenz@earthlink.net wrote:

> That's called an algorithm....not copyrightable....I haven't seen the more
> recent case but at one time the Supremes ruled that an algorithm seem to be a
> fact of nature and not even patentable.

This is one where the Supremes got it somewhat backwards.  Some things
that are called "algorithms" (incorrectly) are fundamental laws. 
Addition, subtraction, square root calculus, linear algebra, "Domain
transforms" (like Fourier, Cosine, LaPlace) are mathematical
"fundamental  laws" (question: is Mathematics invented or discovered?). 
However, numerical methods (from pivot-row matrix inversion, FFT, to the
humble Riemann's sum) are invented processes to emulate, simulate, or
calculate the results from these "laws" or optimize that computation.  

The only thing patentable in software should be "novel" and
"non-obvious" algorithms.   That items can be sorted by value is a
"definitional law" -- a process by which they can be sorted in log or
linear time is an invention. The copyrightable expression of an
algorithm is the manufacture to the algorithmic device in a particular
choice of material of manufacture.  

Mind you, the standard for algorithmic patentability should be high --
"novel" and "non-obvious" applies to a handful of algorithms over the
course of a decade, and not tied to the application of the algorithm --
c.f. the "keyframe animation" patent ("use of colocational interpolation
for interpolation postions and orientations of computer animated object"
-- feh!).  

On the short (very) list of what would have been potentially patentable

* Sorting algorithms: bubblesort, quicksort, heapsort, stupidsort (note
* Search algorithms: ...
* forms-based quasi-interactive interfaces (note 2)
* raster graphics
* vector graphics
* display list graphics
* Compression: 
	* General purpose: LZ, LZW et. al.
	* Human perception based quantization
	* zig-zag RLE encoding of DCT terms
	* various delta compressed and predictor/error encoding 
	* motion estimation technique (a search algorithm)
* finite element (and difference) methods
* matrix inversion techniques
* FFT -- FFT is an optimized technique for a domain transform
* cryptographic ciphers
* routing algorithms 
	* traveling salesman, airline shedule, Si compiler

(note 1) stupidsort (I believe that is the correct name) selects an
order for the list at random, checks to see if the list is in order, and
if not selects another random order. (posited as the "worst possible
sorting algorithm").  Given the combinatorics of the list, the random
number generator would need a very high dynamic range.  Ever notice
"freecell" (a windows solitaire program) has only a 16 bit game ID? 
This covers a minute fraction of the possibility space for a shuffle

(note 2) this would apply to BOTH the IBM 3270 terminals and the Web
Browser-- the IBM mainframe -- terminal control -- forms based terminal
was novel.  The WWW wasn't

NOT suitable for patent

file formats	(not a process but a declaration)
DCT/iDCT transformation (domain transform)
use of XYZ algorithm for ABC application (no application component)