Subject: Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
From: Crispin Cowan <>
Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2000 18:21:23 +0000

Brian Bartholomew wrote:

> What I was trying to say was the "revising the definition of 'art'"
> attack was new to me.  What I wish congress would do is focus on
> promoting the progress of science and the useful arts, not splitting
> definitional hairs.  But if this bit of spiraling-off-into-the-
> ridiculous thinking kills software patents, then maybe it's ok.

I normally advocate abolishing software patents, because of the spiral of stupidly
obvious patents that have been granted.  However, this article has caused me to
reconsider this position.

So, the purpose of patents is to advance the state of the arts for the public
good.  Ok, now consider crypto algorithms.  Suppose that software algorithm
patents are just abolished.  Further suppose that I invent a spiffy new crypto
algorithm (a hypothetical and highly unlikely event :-)  How might I profit from
my invention?  The algorithm is so elegant that anyone can produce a compatible
implementation if I publish it.  If algorithm patents still worked, then I'd
patent it.  But without patents, I'm just sunk.

So, *totally* abolishing patents seems to have the effect of turning crypto
algorithm research from a business into a hobby.  How does that advance the state
of the arts?

Caveat:  this is not a rhetorical question.  I'd be very happy to have this
argument picked apart, so I can go back to just objecting to software patents.

Crispin Cowan, CTO, WireX Communications, Inc.
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