[Gs-devel] More on PMingLiu font

Dan Coby dan at artifex.com
Tue Nov 13 15:44:50 PST 2001


My understanding, and I am also NOT a lawyer, is that one can patent
the use of an algorithm in a specific application.  Thus you cannot
patent the calculation of the distance between two points but you
can patent its use in an application.

There is another constraint upon patents.  You cannot patent something
which is "obvious to a person knowledgeable in the art".  This clause
should make the patenting of the application of simple trigonometry
very difficult.  However the patenting of the application of non-
obvious algorithms is done.  I have often wondered, when looking at
patents, how they made it past the "non obvious" criteria.


-----Original Message-----
From: L. Peter Deutsch [mailto:ghost at aladdin.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 3:48 PM
To: igor at artifex.com
Cc: ray at artifex.com; dan at artifex.com; gs-devel at ghostscript.com
Subject: Re: [Gs-devel] More on PMingLiu font

> Does 'algorithm' means exactly a specific algorithm for
> a specific (mathematical) problem ?

As I understand it, it means a specific method for solving a specific
*real-world* problem.  As I understand it, one can't patent a method for
solving a purely mathematical problem.  (However, see below.)  In other
words, as I understand it, you can't patent a mathematical method that
computes the distance AB between two points in the space of numerical
2-vectors when given the two distances AC and BC and the angle ABC; however,
you *can* patent an algorithm for calculating the distance between two
points in the real world based on measuring AC, BC, and ABC.

My understanding of this is imperfect.  I would feel much better if an
attorney answered this question.

> If so, we can try to create a different algorithm for same problem.


> (If the patented algorithm is only a strong consequence of the
> problem, this would be a mathematical fact, which cannot be patented.)

Unfortunately, as I understand it, this is a matter for the courts to
decide.  While it is true that mathematical facts cannot be patented, it is
a matter of legal judgment as to what is a "mathematical fact" and what is a
problem-solving method, or as to how strong the "strong consequence" of the
mathematical situation has to be in order for an algorithm not to be
patentable.  For example, before 1981, U.S. courts considered that software
was mathematics and therefore not patentable at all.


L. Peter Deutsch     |    Aladdin Enterprises   |  203 Santa Margarita Ave.
ghost at aladdin.com    |  http://www.aladdin.com  |  Menlo Park, CA 94025

	The future of software is at http://www.opensource.org

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