Subject: Re: IC's patent-pending technology
From: <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 13:24:23 +0900

Forrest J. Cavalier III writes:
 > stephen@xemacs.org wrote:
 > 
 > > True, but you could equally well argue that given the basic idea, an
 > > experienced practitioner would realize that the relevant algorithms
 > > would have *already* been "mechanically derived" and refined, and
 > > Google for the basic idea.  The number one hit would probably be the
 > > patent and in the sidebar there'd be an ad for licensing the patent.
 > 
 > I want to interject on exactly this fallacy.

Hyperbole, not fallacy.

 > Sorry to pick on Stephen,

No, I deserve it; I know how literal-minded developers are, and should
know to avoid hyperbole by now.  Now we're even!  :-)

 > It is that hard. Search engines don't read claims.  That takes real
 > work.

[Please note that I'm on record in another subthread as proposing a
method to improve the accuracy of the search engine, with penalties on
the patent-holder if the search engine fails---because it surely will.
I do grok this problem.]

Real work, by humans.  Been there, done that.  For a wannabe like me,
with (a) limited imagination about what I might need to do and (b)
limited skills to design and implement an algorithm, the search-and-
steal approach is *definitely* cheaper than the DIY approach, even
taking into account the number of times I don't find a match at all.

I see no reason to believe that a software engineer specialized in S&S
can't be as efficient, or more so, as one who DIYs as a matter of
policy anything he didn't either do or read about in the last month.

And I *do* feel the attraction of writing code even though I know
there's probably a module to do the same work out there somewhere.
Jamie's "programmers do reinvent the wheel for the pure fun of it, and
for the practice" seems accurate, while your accountant's-eye
calculation that "spending 10 hours searching for software that may
not exist, and qualifying it for reuse in your particular application
is not time well spent" seems likely to be neglecting that bias.

There's also the question of whether creation of large-scale reusable
component libraries is really that hard, or if there's some
coordination failure that the incentives of software patents (after a
couple decades of pain) might help resolve to the benefit of almost
everybody.  Ie, even if your estimate is correct, it's not obvious
that the world needs to be that way.

 > How many person-hours to scale that up to allow looking at ALL the
 > software patents in force and see if they describe code it took you
 > 10 hours to write?

That's not really at issue here.  We are not discussing whether
software patents per se are good or evil; that they are evil is a
foregone conclusion for all but a very few of us, and among that few I
for one currently lean toward "evil".

The question is "Does the IC covenant help to ameliorate this?  Could
it do better?  If so, how?"