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February 24, 2012


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Howdy, Prof. Johnson.

If patents aren't meant to cover mathematics, processes implemented entirely in software would seem to be entirely mathematical and therefore should be unpatentable in my view. Computer science is all about the mathematics of computer programs. Most big programs put a number of smaller programs (subroutines, modules, linking code) into a new arrangement, but should that make them more patentable than claiming to be the first person to subtract 2937927490274902765 from 91738236284629476290 ? To actually work, all software must be converted into a series of bits that on most computer architectures is literally indistinguishable from a (very large) number. (T-shirts exists with large numbers that if entered into a Windows computer in a bit-efficient manner actually create programs that historically have been subjects of patents and even export control laws.)

I have some experience inventing necessary things in software, both while working at UCSD and in the private sector, so I trust my understanding of software as mathematics.

I'm not sure why you feel that the jury result was nullification. At a minimum one would need evidence that the patent claims cover what the plaintiff's lawyers said that they did, that the patents were valid, and that the defendants likely infringed. That's not the type of information one actually gets from a PR campaign waged largely by the plaintiffs, who for the business purposes of selling "licenses" to this property the UC could not monetize.

Here, the jury found that the prior art invalidated the patents, which is the question they were asked to decide on the basis of the evidence presented. How is that nullification?

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