[OT] Free software versus software idea patents

geremy condra debatem1 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 18:54:42 CEST 2011

On Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 1:15 AM, harrismh777 <harrismh777 at charter.net> wrote:
> geremy condra wrote:
>>>    Software is another sort of animal entirely. Because software is not
>>> just
>>> >  based on mathematics--- IT IS mathematics.
>> I am extremely skeptical of this argument.
>     ... as are a great number of other people; corporations, lawyers,
> venture capitalists, SPAM SPAM SPAM...

That's irrelevant to me. I'm much more concerned about your abuse of
mathematics in pursuit of politics than I am about your politics,
which (in broad strokes) I agree with.

>    That is what made the last Supreme Court decision (from this argument in
> part) so important... because for the first time the U.S. Supreme Court is
> beginning to buy it ...  in part.
>    See Groklaw here if you're not familiar with the issue:
>    http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2009022607324398
>    In this case, the court left software patents intact for the moment, but
> they slammed the door shut on Bilski... and the interesting thing here is
> that what Bilski was claiming to have invented is similar is most respects
> to all other "software idea patents," and for similar mathematical
> reasoning. It was a slam dunk, by the way...  here is a block quote from
> Groklaw you might find interesting:
> ===== block quote =====
> If you are a lawyer wondering why some argue that software is mathematics,
> and hence ineligible for patent protection, or are just interested to know
> why software developers, particularly those who develop Free and Open Source
> software, almost to a man oppose software patents, you might enjoy reading
> Groklaw's An Explanation of Computation Theory for Lawyers, as well as the
> amicus briefs and articles marked with the discreet red stars [*], below.
> Donald Knuth, called the "father" of the analysis of algorithms, stated:
> "Basically I remain convinced that the patent policy most fair and most
> suitable for the world will regard mathematical ideas (such as algorithms)
> to be not subject to proprietary patent rights." Also, there is a 30-minute
> movie, Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system, which
> explains it well.
> =====/block quote=====

I'm familiar with the case, and agree with Knuth (and you) that math
should not be patentable. I'd also agree that algorithms are
mathematics. Critically, algorithms *are not* software.

>> it isn't clear to me that software and
>> computation are synonymous. Lambda calculus only models computation,
>> and software has real properties in implementation that are strictly
>> dependent on the physical world
> (see above)

In your rush to misunderstand this you haven't addressed it yet.

>> I think it's quite reasonable to
>> contend that the existence of lambda calculus no more rules out the
>> applicability of patents to software (which I detest) than it rules
>> out the applicability of patents to hardware (which I find only
>> slightly less ridiculous) or other meatspace inventions.
>    The difference is that while hardware may be "described" by mathematics
> (all of it is, actually) software IS the description.

Software does not, in general, describe hardware.

> You know this to be
> true, because you prove it everyday... yourself. How many times have you had
> a problem, and rather than sit down with your pad of paper and a slide rule
> (or your TI-89 Platinum) YOU solved the problem right there on the screen...
> er, I mean... the machine solved the problem for you, uh, after you wrote
> out the symbols ... ???   We don't think out our problems on paper much
> these days... we just enter them into the 'ol terminal and play with it
> there...   frankly, that is what appeals to me with languages like Python,
> Haskell, and Erlang... they are my research engines ...  they take the place
> of paper and pencil and slide rule and calculator (and counting on ones
> fingers) ... but its still little 'ol me doing the thinking...  the days of
> doing multiple differential equations on a black-board (or white board) are
> long gone for most of us.

This does not even provide evidence towards your claim that software
describes hardware, let alone prove it. It does reinforce my growing
suspicion that you do not work in mathematics at a professional or
research level, though.

>    The handwriting is on the wall (not so much wishful thinking as just
> noting that everyone including Supreme Court justices are beginning to get
> it). It is equally important that *all* software engineers and FOSS
> developers *get it!*  We need everyone on board with this... really... the
> time is critical for everyone to understand this... what is actually at
> stake is freedom... what we need to focus on is ending software patents
> forever... now.

Why is it that the trolls on this board always say this? I'm genuinely
baffled by that.

Geremy Condra

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