Subject: Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 19:59:02 +0100

On Tue, Jan 11, 2000 at 11:02:53AM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> Points taken out of order, so that the less contentious material comes
> first.
>     Bernard>   As to the nature of software, there is a well know
>     Bernard> result by Curry and Howard, the Curry-Howard isomorphism,
>     Bernard> that states that a program is of the same nature as a
>     Bernard> mathematical proof. Hence patents on programs are patents
>     Bernard> on proofs.
> How does this differ from any process innovation (vs. a product such
> as a drug)?  Ie, consider the following isomorphism: a (process)
> patent is granted for a description of the process, a (software)
> simulation is a description of the process, and therefore any process
> that can be patented is isomorphic to a program, which is isomorphic
> to a mathematical proof.

I am not sure I follow/understand you. Simulating a process is not the
same as executing it.  All I am saying is that patenting the program
in itself is patenting a proof. It becomes a process only when
executed.  The program is the description of the process that is being
executed when you run it.
  Patent that process if you wish (it is still stupid in my opinion)
but leave the program (the bit sequence on the CDROM) alone. This is
not patentable any more than a proof is (or should not be). Nor can it
be contributory infringement any more than a proof can.

> Note that the leap from physical process to description is a
> difference in nature.  A physical object is not isomorphic to a
> mathematical one; the relation is a model.  Is it then your argument
> that something that has a physical reality separate from what the
> patent inspector makes his decision on can be patented, but that
> anything that the inspector can actually directly apprehend as a
> mental construct cannot?

Patents should apply to physical reality. A description is not
patentable. Only the actual use of the program should possibly be
covered by patents.

> Or, a related proposition, can analog computations be patented but
> digital ones not?

Both can. But not their description (e.g. the wiring diagrams for an
analog computation)

>     Bernard>   As for many sciences, the investment is spread over the
>     Bernard> intellectual community. Actually bringing the (live)
>     Bernard> brain a native of country Y in company or country X, in
>     Bernard> order to have him "invent" something with little actual
>     Bernard> investment other than his salary, which then becomes the
>     Bernard> property of X, is in my opinion stealing the investment
>     Bernard> of Y.
> I see.  The inventions of von Braun, Einstein, and others who left
> Germany for the U.S. were "stolen?"

Yes ... and rightly so in the case of Einstein ... (as far as I am
concerned, von Braun should have rotted in jail) ... not so rightly
when good people educated in poor countries are attracted to rich ones
to produce there.  Especially when the rich country has a lousy
secondary education system and does not even try to live on its own
resources, which are spent on other things.

> How about the inventor him or herself?  Why should the inventor be
> forced to stay in a place that is unwilling to recognize her abilities
> with a competitive salary or environment conducive to her work?

I never said any such thing ... I am only stating that chaining ideas
(that is what most inventions are, despite claims to the contrary
... I recently participated in a meeting of IP professionals... they
talk all the time about "patenting an idea" ... even though they
probably are more careful in court) ...
   I am only stating that chaining ideas is not compatible with the
freedom of their creators. My conclusion is of course that they should
be free, or at least as much as compatible with general interest, in a
global worldwide sense.


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