Knuth on Software Patents

And wow -- just when I thought I was sick to death of reading about Software Patents -- check out this quote from Knuth Yes That Knuth:

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. The basic algorithmic ideas that people are now rushing to patent are so fundamental, the result threatens to be like what would happen if we allowed authors to have patents on individual words and concepts. Novelists or journalists would be unable to write stories unless their publishers had permission from the owners of the words. Algorithms are exactly as basic to software as words are to writers, because they are the fundamental building blocks needed to make interesting products. What would happen if individual lawyers could patent their methods of defense, or if Supreme Court justices could patent their precedents?

(from Donald Knuth's Open Letter to the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks)

Argument by analogy is fiendishly difficult (like using chopsticks to nail spaghetti to a wall?) but Donald does it very well.

 

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