[e2e] patents on routing algorithms

Joe Touch touch at ISI.EDU
Thu Jan 3 14:47:52 PST 2008

David P. Reed wrote:
...> We aren't talking about "software patents" when we refer to processes
>  that involve sending messages between devices - i.e. network
> protocols - by the way. The BGP spec is not code for a computer, nor
> is AODV. In fact, BGP Algorithm patents are not strictly identical to
> software patents. An algorithm is a process.

Algorithms, in the abstract sense, are closer to mathematical equations,
which (AFAICT, not being a lawyer) remain non-patentable in the US.

Implementations of those algorithms in distributed systems are closer to
processes, which is partly why the US patent law changed in this area
(as the URL below notes).

"Processes", as used in patents, refer to a sequence of steps that
results in a physical artifact:
A process or method that consists of an act, operation, or step or
series thereof performed upon a specified subject matter to produce a
physical result.
E.g., the process for manufacturing wine from grapes or the process for
making paper clips from wire.

I'm not familiar with any pure algorithm patent. It's not the spec of
BGP that would be patentable, AFAICT, but rather any rendering of the
algorithm for the purposes of forwarding packets between administrative
domains (presuming BGP were patented, as an example).


>> Joe Touch wrote:
>> Jon Crowcroft wrote:
>>> a letter in this month's CACM reminds us that the Church-Turing Theorem
>>> states that algorithms and mathematics are the same - math is
>>> unpatentable
>>> so ...
>> FWIW, math isn't patentable itself, but is potentially patentable when
>> applied to a real problem (e.g., general path calculation wouldn't be,
>> but IP packet routing would even if it's basically just an application
>> of general path calculation).
>> See, e.g.,:
>> http://www.bitlaw.com/software-patent/history.html
>> Joe

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