## Canada Courts, Patent Office Warns Against Trying To Patent Mathematics 215

davecb writes

*"The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"*
## Cool! All we have to do is create code to math... (Score:3)

...translators and software won't be patentable!

## Re:Cool! All we have to do is create code to math. (Score:5, Insightful)

## Re:Cool! All we have to do is create code to math. (Score:5, Insightful)

Sure it is, but judges still need to be convinced

## Re:Cool! All we have to do is create code to math. (Score:5, Interesting)

printf("Hello World!\n");

Convince me where the math is in that.

Prove that it is not math. Start by showing that it is not represented by 1s and 0s at the hardware level. Then prove that it is not all NAND gates that do the manipulating and that all the hardware operations are not mathematical. Bonus: Prove that add, subtract, divide, multiply, mov are not mathematical functions.

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That's like saying that a chair is just a representation of geometrical shapes which can be expressed as mathematical formulas.

Everything is math, therefore everything must not be patentable.

Your thoughts are nothing more than a complex orchestration of electrochemical stimuli, akin to a computer. Everything from your dreams to the stars can be expressed using math, as it's a form of communication.

To me, the line is drawn wherever it is most convenient and fair. 1 line can be drawn in front of software and

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That's like saying that a chair is just a representation of geometrical shapes which can be expressed as mathematical formulas.

Yes, your point being? As you seem to understand yourself, anything in our known universe can be expressed by math. Our math breaks down to a certain degree when we enter the realm of quantum mechanics, or rather determinism breaks down, math describes this fine enough.

To me, the line is drawn wherever it is most convenient and fair.

Back on topic though, you're right that we have to draw the line somewhere; I'd rather draw the line at zero. Nothing can be patented, and no business idea deserves any kind of special protection. If your idea cannot survive in the free marke

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Back on topic though, you're right that we have to draw the line somewhere; I'd rather draw the line at zero. Nothing can be patented, and no business idea deserves any kind of special protection. If your idea cannot survive in the free market on merit alone it has no place in the market at all.

Oh, I am sure my Great Idea will survive in the market just fine, however it won't benefit my company at all. Immediately after putting it on market, bigger and richer competition will just copy it, set up mass production and use huge advertising campaign to grab all sales. In this case why should I even bother trying to innovate?

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[*words*]In this case why should I even bother trying to innovate?

Because innovating will give you what is called a

first mover advantageand for the most part that is enough, if your idea is truly innovative. The closer your idea is to an already existing product, the less of an advantage you'll get. I posit that zero patents could just as easily spur even more innovation. Patents as they are now do not, since once you have even the slightest new idea you're set for life + the lifespan of your grandchildren. That does not encourage innovation.## Re: (Score:2)

That's like saying that a chair is just a representation of geometrical shapes which can be expressed as mathematical formulas.

Yes, your point being? ....

Back on topic though, you're right that we have to draw the line somewhere; I'd rather draw the line at zero...

That was the point. You wanting to draw the line at 0 is what I had extrapolated from the math argument. It'll work just as well as the law did during the wild west days. Only the people with the biggest wallets will win instead of the people with guns.

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I think the "patentable" bar should be set higher, so that a process has to be particularly inventive and non-intuitive to get a patent for it. The problem with software patents is the stifling effect from having too many obvious patents. If lots of developers can independently re-invent the same idea (e.g

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The problem with not having patents is that it encourages people to keep things secret to stop others from copying. This then leads to great ideas being lost when the business fails or the inventor dies.

That's a nice theory but, in practice, the majority of patents are complete nonsense. There's the obvious stuff either from patent trolls looking to lurk until they can make a quick buck off someone who is actually doing something productive. Then you have your inventors who create something neat and marketable, but whose invention doesn't really fit the definition required to get a patent (that fact doesn't stop the patent being issued of course). A good example of the latter can be found in that late-nigh

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The problem with that logic is that with sufficient effort you could show that

anyproblem can be reduced to math. The question is not can something be reduced to math, butis it mathitself. For example: geometry is a mathematical field, but not everything created using geometry is math. Another example: every video on Youtube. Every one of them is reduced to mathematics before being displayed (and quite often when it is made), but arguing that the video itselfismath or a mathematical algorithm is patent## Re: (Score:2)

The problem with that logic is that with sufficient effort you could show that any problem can be reduced to math. The question is not can something be reduced to math, but is it math itself. For example: geometry is a mathematical field, but not everything created using geometry is math. Another example: every video on Youtube. Every one of them is reduced to mathematics before being displayed (and quite often when it is made), but arguing that the video itself is math or a mathematical algorithm is patently ridiculous.

You are making arbitrary distinctions based on abstractions. Videos on Youtube are pure math and that 99.9% (yes, I pulled that stat out of my ass) of users don't know the simplest algorithms behind it does not make it any less math. The real problem here is that we are forced to make distinctions in the first place, because patent law requires us to. The writers of the law didn't seem to know these simple facts, and now we're stuck with a piece of shit legislation that is being pushed on the rest of the wo

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Videos on Youtube are pure math

Just re-read that will you. "A video is pure math"... It is not art, not a form of expression between humans, not humorous or sad or cheesy. It is "pure math".

Ok. Got it. Any other pronouncements you want to make?

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Who said that art and math are mutually exclusive, and why would you believe a person who said that? What part of playing back a video on Youtube do you think is not mathematics at work? Elaborate on your point.

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Mathematics at work and using math is not the same as mathematics. Just like the fact that I can describe said video in English doesn't mean it is English.

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Who said that art and math are mutually exclusive, and why would you believe a person who said that? What part of playing back a video on Youtube do you think is not mathematics at work? Elaborate on your point.

That's kind of the point of patent\copyright laws; Math: not patentable, Art: is patentable.

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Hate to burst your logic bubble there, but guess what? Art is NOT patentable. So far, at least. (That's not to say some attorneys in the U.S. haven't tried [plotpatents.com].)

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You're missing the point: mathematical models of programming don't deal with real-world interactions. As soon as a program does some IO, it can be argued that it is part of a machine. That's why patenting computer programs needs to be banned separately.

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Corollary to Clarke's Third Law: all math, sufficiently abstracted and obfuscated, is indistinguishable from art.

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Deep underneath the hood... it might very well be that all art is math. Shhh! Don't repeat such heresy.

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Everything on a computer is NOT math. Everything on a computer is representable as math.

Fixed that for you.

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No, the point is that anyone who has ever touched the insides of a computer knows that everything is a collection of ones and zero that are manipulated by mathematical functions. As a matter of fact, the definition of a computer is the repetitive manipulation of numbers via math. As a result, anyone who argues that something running on a computer is not broken down into math has the burden of proof.

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No, the point is that anyone who has ever touched the insides of a computer knows that everything is a collection of ones and zero that are manipulated by mathematical functions.

Nonsense. There are no mathematical functions in my Mac. There are lots of voltages and currents and semiconductors, but not a single mathematical function.

## So is the Bennett mechanism . . . (Score:2)

The Bennett mechanism is a highly overconstrained "mobile spatial four-bar linkage." (Yeah, yeah, the Bennett mechanism is 100 year old prior art, but I am saying some new discovery yet to be made of a linkage.) What makes something a Bennett mechanism is a precise relationship between the link lengths and the link "twist angles." So a Bennett mechanism is not the materials nor whether you use roller or journal bearings nor the thickness and shape of the link

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Actually no, we're not in a court room. Wanting proof that a computer is a mathematical construction as being a pure fuckwit and deserves ridicule. The entire basis of computers is mathematical, any fucking textbook on this subject will deal with this very fucking fact in the first 20 pages (if it's any good).

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The inanity is, that supposedly educated people - IT people who make a living with computers - people who have been exposed to computer SCIENCE - can pretend that programs are anything other than complex mathematical formula.

WTF does "compute" mean, anyway? Computing, by definition, is the manipulation of numbers.

You've found a new way to manipulate numbers? Copyright to your little heart's content. File your patent paperwork here in the circular file.

## Re: (Score:3)

printf("Hello World!\n");

Convince me where the math is in that.

Can a computer interpret it? If it can, then it's maths, because all a computer can do is manipulate symbols [caltech.edu], which is maths. If, of course, it can't be interpreted by a computer, it may not be maths.

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You can't patent Shakespeare either. Do not confuse patents with copyright.

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More accurately, men and women can assign values to Shakespeare's works, enter those values into a computer, then manipulate those values in any manner they so wish.

The computer is not interpreting Shakespeare. The computer is manipulating mathematical equations that people interpret as Shakespeare.

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Can a computer interpret it? If it can, then it's maths, because all a computer can do is manipulate symbols [caltech.edu], which is maths. If, of course, it can't be interpreted by a computer, it may not be maths.

Circular argument, and therefore not acceptable. You are saying all software is maths, therefore all software is maths. I'm saying computers are not maths, therefore the printf call isn't maths. Just as valid as your argument (which means not at all).

The problem is that you can easily make a claim "this is maths", but you will find it impossible to show the actual maths. You say "it is maths". I say "if it is maths, then _show_ me the maths. " If you can't show me the maths, then either it isn't maths, o

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Meh. If you agreed with that, then why did you first argue it's not true? Just admit that you didn't think it through, were wrong, and move on.

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It could be viewed as a set of values with a mapping to another set with a binary representation.

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That program amounts to:

S and O are ordered sets of elements from the ASCII set.

set S = {"H","e","l","l","o"," ","W","o","r","l","d","!","\n"}

set O = {}

let O = O U S

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Any algorithm can be implemented on a Turing machine, which is a mathematical construct.

You might want to implement it in lambda calculus instead, it's more abstract and probably feels more math-y, even to the judges.

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Isn't code already math? Any algorithm can be implemented on a Turing machine, which is a mathematical construct.

Any invention is made up of a large number of atoms, which interact with each other according to the laws of quantum physics. Since quantum physics is not patentable, nothing is patentable. Right?

And actually, not every algorithm _can_ be implemented on a Turing machine for two reasons: 1. A Turing machine running a program can only either stop in a zero state, stop in a one state, or run forever. That's not really very useful. 2. A Turing machine can not be implemented for most algorithms because the Tu

## Re:Cool! All we have to do is create code to math. (Score:5, Interesting)

Good, they shouldn't be.

Many things patentable, shouldn't be, many things unpatentable shouldn't be, but are.

Patents should expire 4 years after acceptance to promote innovation. If you haven't dug gold out of it in 4 years, it's time to shit or get off the pot. There's a world out there who can innovate. What have you done for us today?

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The 19th century called and wants its

algorithm[wikipedia.org] back.## Re: (Score:2)

## You can't patent math (Score:3)

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That sounds strange. So you could patent "subtracting two numbers to calculate at what time you have to leave home to arrive on time"?

## Re:You can't patent math (Score:4, Funny)

You have to add "with an iphone" to the end, otherwise you could do that with paper and pen and that's not patentable.

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That is, unless I have misread or forgot something.

## Uh Oh (Score:2)

My guaranteed payday based on my patented use of the letter 'x' in equations suddenly appears in doubt.

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## It's not over yet! (Score:5, Informative)

Here's why: Lawyers being what they are, will bicker over what exactly a mathematical formula is.

I will never forget an incident where in the recent Oracle vs Google case, Oracle's side tried to change the facts about a memory reference being symbolic or otherwise. Mind you, this was an expert! It was pathetic!

Subsequently, the court shot down Oracle's position with this piece.

The foregoing is sufficient but it is worth adding that Oracle's infringement case was presented through Dr. Mitchell. A reasonable jury could have found his many "mistakes" in his report merely to be convenient alterations to fix truthful admissions earlier made before he realized the import of his admissions. For this reason, a reasonable jury could have rejected every word of his testimony.Oracle lost the case - For now.

## not unlike .. (Score:2)

## Re:not unlike .. (Score:4, Insightful)

should genes be patentable, but it seems that we maybe have lost that one (sadly)

Actually, it's the same issue, since genes are information structures which are processed by the cell. Consequently, genes are software, and consequently are mathematics. The fact that we don't yet understand in detail the mechanisms by which the cell processes the information structures is irrelevant.

If you can't patent software because it is mathematics, then you can't patent genes because they are software.

## Re: (Score:3)

If you can't patent software because it is mathematics, then you can't patent genes because they are software.

But one of the things that the law defines as patentable is a novel "configuration of matter". A truly original gene would easily qualify under this condition. While the gene is only useful because it is software for a biological system, if it represents a novel configuration of matter to encode that software, then it should be patentable.

I'm less sure when the case involves taking genes found in nature, and splicing them onto other plants (such as the "Roundup Ready" gene). In this case, while there is

## Matter of time (Score:3)

In a little while, when physicists have figured out the laws of the universe, everything might be mathematics... (not just symbolic stuff like computer programs)

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## Re:Matter of time (Score:5, Interesting)

It's the other way round. Mathematics is just an abstract representation of the real world. No amount of physics, maths or theories of "everything" will cure cancer or invent the next IPhone. Patents are about (or at least should be about) the inventive step - i.e. the coming together of several elements to create something new.

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No amount of physics, maths or theories of "everything" will cure cancer

Well, a sheet of paper on which a patent is written will not solve many practical problems either.

## Re: Matter of time (Score:2)

Not all that different than hardware... though the implications might be.

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How is teleportation not merely physics? And if you can select and teleport cancer cells, you can cure cancer.

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physicists have figured out the laws of the universe, everything might be mathematics

I'm afraid everywhere is

alreadymathematics... This is the difference between physics and mathematics: change the way our Universe works and physics vanish, mathematics (on which physics formula are based on) remain.## Software is math (Score:2)

It really is simple. Software is mathematics because all software can be expressed as mathematical formulas, therefore it can't be patented.

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Software may be mathematics but the research, engineering and creative thinking that went into bringing the software from concept to actual code isn't.

If I invented a new artificial intelligence algorithm that has distinctive advantages over every currently known alternative, I believe the

principles behind itwould still be very much patent-worthy. The exact software implementation is pointless since others would likely be able to rewrite their own alternate implementation from principles and my own implem## Re: (Score:2)

The purpose of patents is to benefit society same with copyrite (spelling intentional) - to promote a small amount of legitimately deserving works we have to screw up the other 99% and ruin the industry? Free speech includes horrible speech, its the price one pays for the bad minority (and sometimes the bad stuff IS the most important... just as some of the most deserving patents may be the most important.)

We can no longer afford to cripple research, small business, and even the nation by this idiotic pat

## Re: (Score:2)

It really is simple. Software is mathematics because all software can be expressed as mathematical formulas, therefore it can't be patented.

Here's a bit of software:

printf ("Hello, world\n");

Now you write the formula. Let's see how simple it is.

## Judgement calls and research by the examiners (Score:5, Informative)

As a clarification and reminder for the patent examiners, this is a good thing. However, the USPTO has guidelines and rules as well, with odd little things like "Prior art" and descriptions of things that should not be patentable.

However, there is also a policy (not sure if it is written, or just written about) that if the patent examiner cannot understand the patent application but cannot specifically see that it definitely contravenes any of the guidelines for things that should not be patentable, the patent should be granted and then the court system should be used to test the validity of the patent.

## Re: (Score:3)

he examiners are supposed to be at least familiar with the area. of ordinary skill in the art as it were.

if they cannot understand a patent then how could they build what it describes. so if they cannot understand it then it's not meeting the goal of patents: ie disclosing how something works.

## It's not about Software, everything is messed up! (Score:2)

The problem with the current patent system, in particular in the US, is that it is a lousy version of an idea fro

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Well, I HATE this software argument about patents as, to be honest, EVERYTHING can be described as mathematics.

It's really just an argument used by lazy thinkers. They don't want software patents (with good reasons, because there is a huge number of software patents that are in my opinion obvious), they read that maths is not patentable, so they shout "software is maths, so it is not patentable". There are a few huge problems with it:

1. You can of course claim that all software is maths, and call everyone stupid who doesn't believe it, but that doesn't make it true. If someone says "it is a mathematical function"

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## Where are my royalties!? (Score:2)

2 + 2 = 5 ©

Nobody says the IP has to be correct.

## Maybe you can't patent math (Score:2)

But text can be copyrighted.

The first person to print out the full value of Pi can copyright it....

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Nope. You can only copyright your own creations, not those of nature.

## Re:this is why mathematicians are poor (Score:5, Insightful)

Because money is all that matters in life. Got it.

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Right. So there has never been any progress in math, nor is there any talent. Or in any other field that pays less than lawyers, politicians and CEOs. Oh, wait, that's wrong. Not to mention that the field of law, politics and business really hasn't progressed beyond what Machiavelli outlined a couple of hundred years ago.

In other words, data points to the fact that remuneration is inversely proportional to success.

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Money is great stuff to have, but when it comes to the act of creation, the best thing is not to think of money too much. It constipates the whole process.".## Re: (Score:2)

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AFAIC all patents and copyright should be abolished on a general principle that government has no authority to protect or promote any business (or private protection scheme of any ideas or implementations) in the first place and all of a sudden the problem disappears. You want protection? It's your private business, use trade secrets and contracts.

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Let me guess: when I buy a book, I'd be bound by contract to respect the author/publisher's right to control duplication, right? Is this meant to bind from the moment of purchase, or of opening the book?

If I am recording video of me walking along the street, and walk past someone reading a newspaper, then unless I'm contract-bound simply by having inadvertently seen the newspaper, then all the contents of that newspaper that I have recorded are essentially

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Not a baby but a rotten corpse. You don't have to sign any contract with a publisher, very few would, so to sell books they would not ask you to. Ever been to countries where they don't care about copyright? Publishers are in business there as well.

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Point taken - I myself think of freely available ebooks as value-add for the treeware, as is the case with Thinking in C++ [mindview.net] - but piracy seems to be much more popular with music and video than with books.

I take it you've never visited LibGen or Avaxhome...

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I've yet to hear a vaguely plausible defence for replacing copyright by contracts. I've also never seen the idea seriously forwarded outside of Slashdot discussion.

So you've missed the various pirate parties getting mandates in many European nations in some places even nationwide, not to mention two seats in the European Parliament.

## Re:Abolish all patents and copyright (Score:4, Insightful)

Which government are you referring to? The US government most certainly has the authority, defined by Constitution to "protect or promote any business" (your words). Supreme Courts have been upholding that authority for at least a century and a half, and government has been asserting it since before ratification.

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And it was a mistake.

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This.

Laws governing copyright and patents are ultimately built upon a fundamental premise that not only are they not particularly detrimental to society, but that they allegedly have an underlying usefulness from which all of society can actually benefit, at least in the long run.

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