Subject: Re: keeping patentable algorithm free
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 29 Jul 1999 12:53:32 -0400

   From: John Cowan <cowan@locke.ccil.org>
   Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 08:29:54 -0400 (EDT)

   jeff@alum.mit.edu scripsit:

   > 1) I don't want to spend a lot of money or do a lot of work.
   >    (i.e. I don't want to go through the hassle of applying for a 
   >    patent myself.)
   > 
   > 2) I don't care if other people use the algorithm.
   > 
   > 3) Somebody, somewhere else may re-invent the algorithm and try to
   >    patent it, and then perhaps keep me and others from using it. I'm
   >    afraid of this and don't want it to happen.

   Publish a description of the algorithm, openly dedicating it to the
   public domain.  Make sure the publication is dated. That won't help you
   if a patent is already pending, but otherwise it makes the algorithm
   prior art.

One easy and relatively inexpensive way to publish an algorithm with a
legally verifiable date in the U.S. is to register it with the
U.S. copyright office.  You can send them a program listing, and they
will basically file it with a timestamp.  (Note that you are not
required to register in order to obtain copyright--these days
everything you write is automatically copyrighted--but it can help
settle any legal disputes).  You can then invoke the registration if
you ever need to.  The details should be somewhere under www.loc.gov
(I first looked into this over 20 years ago--wow).

Ian