Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knuth's letter to the USPTO

I came across this very interesting letter from respected computer scientist, Donald Knuth. Written in 2007, Dr Knuth asks the USPTO to reconsider awarding "software" patents.

Highlights from the letter:
In the period 1945-1980, it was generally believed that patent law did not pertain to software. However, it now appears that some people have received patents for algorithms of practical importance--e.g., Lempel-Ziv compression and RSA public key encryption--and are now legally preventing other programmers from using these algorithms.

This is a serious change from the previous policy under which the computer revolution became possible, and I fear this change will be harmful for society.
Congress wisely decided long ago that mathematical things cannot be patented. Surely nobody could apply mathematics if it were necessary to pay a license fee whenever the theorem of Pythagoras is employed.
It is only a 2-page letter, and I encourage you to read it.

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