[e2e] patents on routing algorithms

Jon Crowcroft Jon.Crowcroft at cl.cam.ac.uk
Thu Jan 3 23:01:27 PST 2008

it is a goal of much recent work (see Sewell et al in sigcomm 05
"Rigorous specification and conformance testing techniques for network protocols,
as applied to TCP, UDP, and sockets"
and various papers
by Griffin and Sobrinho on Metarouting) 
to render protocols merely 
algorithmic specifications that are fed into engines that run them

shame on us as computer scientists that
we dont use such techniques on a daily basis for
well-found engineering instead of the handwaving that passes
for communications work still in the 21st century

it is a technical AND ethical goal to make it so
and should be a duty on all of us to get the law to recognize it

In missive <477D6109.9020701 at reed.com>, "David P. Reed" typed:

 >>One should be careful that just because we speak English on this list, 
 >>we don't all live in England.  US patent law is different from that in 
 >>other jurisdictions.
 >>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.   A software program is a recipe that causes a 
 >>device to perform a process, but it also typically has "free variables" 
 >>so it is a recipe that is not terribly specific.   At some degree of 
 >>non-specificity it almost certainly doesn't specify anything narrow 
 >>enough to be patentable subject matter.
 >>Of course, all these nouns that I am forced to use to describe 
 >>abstractions create the illusion that descriptions are equivalent to the 
 >>things described.
 >>/*"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"  (see 
 >>or, if you prefer the American Presidentialism: "it all depends on what 
 >>is is" (Clinton).
 >>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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