Thank you for your excellent article on inventions and the U.S. Patent Office. The article properly put into historical perspective some of today’s legal calisthenics, especially for one area Mr. Alien touched on—the “swiftly moving computer industry.” The software-programming industry is on the brink of upheaval because of a flood of “software patents” being issued by the Patent Office, most of which represent techniques that are widely known, traditionally used, and obvious to computer programmers.
At the root of this very serious problem is the granting of patents for algorithms —the basic, step-by-step mathematical descriptions of procedures, techniques, and ideas that form the foundation of virtually every computer program. Every program implements algorithms for a variety of purposes, from drawing a straight line to adding two numbers. Sadly, lawsuits for software patent infringement are just starting and by all expectations will continue for the next decade.