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OK, while you're here. If Pythagoras hadn't nicked the3-4-5 idea ... complaint against anybody who used the principle without my consent?

No, you couldn't patent a 3-4-5 triangle or the theorem behind it because (assuming it is hitherto unknown) it excluded ... claim to know the latest US position on mathematical methods, but I'd start by expecting it still to be similar.

Sounds like it. I happened to hear a talk given by some nize fellows with extremely strong Estuary accents the other day on European patent law and they went into some of this stuff. The "inventive step" thing is the counterpart to US obviousness.
I am told that Unisys Corporation have patents which are expiring about now (I think their US patent may have ... the algorithm as such. If you can use it for planning the planting of your vegetable patch, go right ahead.

I don't believe that's generally correct under US law, as I was saying to Erk. The patent monopoly isn't restricted to a particular contemplated use. If you make some software that performs the same data compression algorithm but for vegetable patch planning purposes, that sounds like patent infringement to me. Nay? Of course in a formalistic sense the algorithm isn't monopolized, but we can ignore that.

Steny '08!
Depends on one's definition of "frivolous". Originally, a patent was only awarded for a "thing", a made device which did something original.

When was that? I'm pretty sure that the three main categories of invention have always been patentable, and one of those is a "method" for doing something (either something that wasn't done before or a method for doing something in a novel way).

But I thought the "method" had to be demonstrable in some physical way, ie, one had to have actually built or designed something using the method. You either had to have a physical implementation or detailed drawings of such an implementation complete with scientific data proving (to the satisfaction of the examiner) that it would work.

dg (domain=ccwebster)
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I am told that Unisys Corporation have patents which are ... of a certain data compression algorithm to form GIF files,

It wasn't a patent for using the data compression algorithm to form GIF files. It was actually, I believe, invented for modem communication, but it happened to be the compression algorithm used in GIF files. (At the time, Unisys, the successor to Sperry, who held the patent, was, I believe, granting royalty-free licenses. They terminated the licenses in 1999.)
but these won't monopolise the algorithm as such. If you can use it for planning the planting of your vegetable patch, go right ahead.

I don't believe that's generally correct under US law, as I was saying to Erk. The patent monopoly isn't restricted to a particular contemplated use.

The actual patent, which has an astonishing 236 claims is for

In a data compression and data decompression method, a compression method for compressing a stream of data character signals into a compressed stream of code signals, said compression method comprising the steps of ...
Terry Welch, High Speed Data Compression and Decompression Apparatus and Method, US Patent No. 4,558,302
You'll note that this requires the presence of the compression method. The decompression method is a dependent claim. I believe that because of this, GIF readers, which could decompress, but not compress, were considered to be non-infringing. It was only if you wanted to be able to save a GIF file that you ran afoul of the patent. Similarly, gzip could read .Z files, but not write them. (IANAL, etc.) I don't know if this was intentional or an oversight on their part.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >Society in every state is a blessing,
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >but government, even in its bestPalo Alto, CA 94304 >state is but a necessary evil; in its

http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
...
} Purely a supposition on my part, but I didn't think that jurors were } typically given entire documents to scrutinize, but rather were asked } to listen to testimony concerning what the documents said, which might } include read excerpts. I'd expect the excerpts to be carefully chosen } and framed such that the chooser's interpretation was the one } understood. If you let them read the documents on their own, you run } the risk of their being colored by a misinterpretation of something } (that you and perhaps even the other side consider) irrelevant. }
} The description in my latest granted patent (just over a week old) is } rather short, about five pages (not including figures and claims). I } don't think I'd expect a random juror to be able to read and } understand it, and I find that when reading patents, while I (who have } a fair bit of experience with them) can typically get a fair idea of } what they're about on a first reading, it often takes a fair bit of } time to be confident I understand just what they're claiming(1) and } where the corner cases are.
}
} (1) Or, more often relevant for our concerns, disclosing.

Speaking as a random juror, one of the things that jusges seem to be pretty careful about is not letting one side or the other indicate too obviously what is relevant and what isn't. If I don't get the document to look at, I decide of the testimony what is relevant and what isn't, and really you want me to have the document. One lawyer tried to get evidence admitted with all sorts of Post-It style notes indicating what the lawyer thought was relevant and what wasn't. The judge was appalled and made him peel all the stuff right back off again.
The quickest way to lose a case is to treat random jurors like they're stupid. Jurors have all the time they want to take.

R. J. Valentine
When was that? I'm pretty sure that the three main ... or a method for doing something in a novel way).

But I thought the "method" had to be demonstrable in some physical way, ie, one had to have actually built ... drawings of such an implementation complete with scientific data proving (to the satisfaction of the examiner) that it would work.

I don't know what's been happening lately, but it used to be the only thing you had to provide a working model for was a perpetual-motion machine.
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I don't know what's been happening lately, but it used to be the only thing you had to provide a working model for was a perpetual-motion machine.

Mine is around here somewhere...

dg (domain=ccwebster)
...
} I don't know what's been happening lately, but it used to be } the only thing you had to provide a working model for was a } perpetual-motion machine.
I'm suspecting a little spark of humor there, but isn't that the one thing they wouldn't even look at? Is that by law or is it right there in the Constitution? (ObBob: IWLIUBICBBJN)

R. J. Valentine
No, mainly because it would be seen as a mathematical ... to patent a theorem as such, but that'sa side issue.)

Not to mention that if the builders knew it, then it wouldn't be novel.

But that the builders knew 3-4-5 needn't mean they understood the generalization.
So if it's a general law, you can't take out a patent, but if it's a mathematical method, you can?
At this point, I wonder about copyright in prime numbers: as a non-mathematician I'd guess that you might reasonably have copyright or a patent in some method for discovering prime numbers, but not the number itself. You haven't invented the number, after all; and that it's prime looks like a "law of nature" to me.
Mike.
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At this point, I wonder about copyright in prime numbers: as a non-mathematician I'd guess that you might reasonably have copyright or a patent in some method for discovering prime numbers, but not the number itself.

Nothing reasonable about it. It's all just a matter of what a particular judge or court happens to decide.
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