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   RE: [OT] Re: Geoworks and their patent

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  • From: Eric Bohlman <ebohlman@netcom.com>
  • To: Bill dehOra <Wdehora@cromwellmedia.co.uk>
  • Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 03:23:11 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 25 Jan 2000, Bill dehOra wrote:
> If the binomial theorem appeared last week say, I don't see why it couldn't
> be patented, if it was rephrased as an algorithmic process from which
> machines can be built. It's good that the innovative and the daring be
> rewarded with protection for their ideas. If anything patents drive
> invention by forcing further innovation. People worry too much about
> patents. The Shockley patent didn't exactly kill the electronics revolution.
> Geoworks' patent won't kill phone computing.

Point of order: the purpose of patent law is *not*, contrary to popular
belief, to reward inventors for simply creating inventions; the
marketplace is entirely capable of doing that.  Rather, it's to reward
inventors for making the details of how their inventions work public
rather than trying to keep them secret.  The idea is to further innovation
by making it possible to build on other people's work rather than having
to re-invent everything.

That, BTW, is the reason why to qualify for a patent, an invention must be
novel, non-obvious and described in sufficient detail to be "capable of
being reduced to practice by a skilled practitioner of the art."  The
details being disclosed have to be substantial enough that their
disclosure actually advances the state of the art.

The problem is that lately, the USPTO seems to be awarding patents that
cover *all* possible means of achieving a particular outcome rather than
specific implementations.  Merely thinking up a desirable result doesn't
provide much to build on.  As someone once put it, it's like getting a
patent on the broad concept of mechanically trapping mice rather than on
the design of a particular mousetrap.

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