Archive for January, 2011

The “Moby Dick Support Device”

Monday, January 31st, 2011

BitOBear wrote on Groklaw

As a side thought, a device doesn’t lose its nature when applied to a particular purpose. If I buy a bookshelf and put nothing on it, or only put a single copy of Moby Dick, or I burden it down exclusively with copies of Moby Dick, it doesn’t become a “moby dick support device”, it remains a bookshelf.

I have heard tell that the argument is that when I run a spreadsheet program on a computer it becomes a spreadsheeting machine, so the patent people argue that it _becomes_ a “particular machine”.

This “moby dick support device”-reasoning is exactly what European Patent Office is doing in regards of the European Patent Convention (EPC) Article 52 which excludes computer programs “as such” from patentability.

Since it’s not possible to patent software “as such”, they let their clients redefine general purpose computers as “special devices running said patented software” and accept that.

Indeed, there is a case in the US In re Alappat, in which exactly this ridiculous proposition was accepted by the court. The same bogus is repeated In re Prater: “But once a program has been introduced, the general-purpose digital computer becomes a special-purpose digital computer […] which, along with the process by which it operates, may be patented subject

To go a step further, not only does a general-purpose computer not become “a special purpose computer”, but it also does nothing but mathematics. Which are, again according to patent law (and this time even the US one which allows software patents), not patentable. See 1+1 (pat. pending) which explains not only why computer programs are nothing but math, but also how to possibly prove this to a court.