NEWS: Algorithm patenting

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 15:57:05 -0500

Just read in Edupage:

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that mathematical algorithms used in a computer program may be given intellectual property protection as long as they produce "a useful, concrete and tangible result." The case in question concerned a program that allowed financial managers to pool and calculate mutual fund investments in a way that let them to avoid certain kinds of regulatory review. (New York Times 12 Jan 99)

While this ruling looks like a long-overdue realization that algorithms are a natural extension of physical technologies, patentability of algorithms also promises to extend the legal can of worms that the intellectual property laws have become, to [further, should I say?] corrupt the academic spirit of many fields of applied mathematics and computer science, etc. - but then, maybe, it will bring the IP laws to such a confused state that they will be entirely abandoned... (I am not holding my breath here - lawyers can make much more money if the cases are confusing and controversial, and the legal process in the U.S. is driven by power clashes rather than desire to provide visionary guidelines for social behavior that could make further development more smooth and peaceful).

Alexander Chislenko <> <> <>