今野浩: カーマーカー特許とソフトウェア -- 数学は 特許に なるか
In this book which received great public attention in Japan, Prof. Konno, a famous specialist of operations research (applied mathematics) from Tokyo University, explains what is behind the recent drive to extend the scope of patentability to software and mathematics. The book starts from a few fascinating examples of real advances in mathematical research, namely Narendra Karmarkar's interior point method of linear programming. This method was a truly rare achievement of ingenuity with great value for large-scale industrial planning. If any mathematical achievement could be suitable for patenting, then it was this method. The AT&T laboratories did receive a patent for this method in 1988. However the Karmarkar patent did not create very significant revenues for AT&T while causing significant inconvenience to the industry and destroying much of the positive interaction cycles that had previously characterised the cooperation between linear programming research and industry in the US. The AT&T Laboratories no longer produced any Nobel Prize winners after they became patent-oriented, and Karmarkar himself was isolated from the network of mathematic researchers, who soon left him lagging far behind. Konno captures the reader with a fascinating introduction to linear programming, interwoven with a dramatic account of the battles that accompanied the Karmarkar patent within the mathematics community and the patent system. Konno was on the podium or in the first row during the conferences where the drama around Karmarkar, linear programming and mathematical patents evolved. Moreover it was Konno who filed an opposition to the Karmarkar patent in Japan. He shows that the Japanese Ministery of Trade and Industry (MITI) pushed the Japanese patent office to bend Japanese patent law in an inconsistent direction. Lawyers at the time explained that it was not necessary to be consistent but to go with the tide, which was inevitably pro software patents. The MITI acted under the pressure from these lawyers and from the US government. Konno's vivid examples suggest however that software patents are not here to stay. They do not correspond to any need of the software industry. They have stifled innovation and resulted in a massive blood transfer from the software industry to the litigation business. They created a new market of about 2 billion USD per year for the patent law professionals. 'You needn't be named Hercule Poirot to see who is the driving force behind all this', Konno remarks. But there is hope, because the young generation has not lost sight of the problems.
- 今野浩: カーマーカー特許とソフトウェア -- 数学は 特許に なるか
- 中央公論社 中公新書 東京 1995
- Tamai 1998: Abstraction orientated property of software and its relation to patentability
- Prof Tamai of Tokyo University shows how patenting of software clashes with some of the underlying assumptions of the patent system. The patent system relies on requirements such as concreteness and physical substance in order to keep the breadth of claims within reasonable limits. Software innovation however is the art of making processes as general as possible, i.e. the art of abstraction. Tamai quotes a set of patent claims from the SOFTIC symposium of 1993, where patent officials from JP, US and EU judged the patentability of an example algorithm at different levels of concretisation. The European representative was more willing than his colleagues from US and JP to grant patents on abstract claims, but even he shyed back from granting them at the level that really represents the innovative achievement. Tamai shows how this inconsistency leads to a series of other inconsistencies. Tamai sees only two ways out of the inconsistency: (1) acceptance of abstract claims (2) exclusion of software patents.
- Patent Inflation in Japan
- Japan, although a world champion in the number of patents, has been rather passive in the patent inflation movement. The patent officials in the government bent their patent law in reaction to pressures from the US government and the local patent lawyers. The subject was hardly discussed anywhere. Prof. Konno of Tokyo University has tried to prevent the patent inflation movement by publications and even by appealing to the highest courts. In early 2002 his last appeal was rejected by the supreme court on the grounds that he as an individual was not entitled to sue the Japanese Patent Office (JPO).
- Donald Knuth and Software Patents
- Donald Knuth, pioneer and cult figure of informatics (computer science), author of some definitive monumental classics such as "The Art of Programming", finds that software patents are built on some basic misunderstandings, similar to the misunderstandings of certain provincial american legislators in the 19th century or the medieval catholic church. Computer programs are as abstract as any algorithm can be, Knuth says.