Software Patents in Europe - ECA Statement

L. Cranswick lzc at dl.ac.uk
Tue Sep 16 00:43:02 EST 2003


As per normal, the following are just my personal opinions (First
Amendment Rights, etc):

Michael Glazer <m.glazer1 at physics.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
> I find it difficult to believe that anyone would find patenting our sort of
> software worth doing, at least as far as small stuff , typical scientific
> research oriented software is concerned. 

[text delete]

It would seem that others do not find it difficult to contemplate and
actually patent this sort of "small stuff".

There are a non-exhaustive list of current Crystallographic "Software
Patents" (also called "computer-implemented business method patents")
at the CCP14 website:

  http://www.ccp14.ac.uk/maths/software-patents/crystallography_patents.html

(not all these are "crystallographic computer-implemented business
method patents", there are "Crystallographic Business Method patents" and
normal crystallographic patents in the list)

Titles such as:
 -  Computer-aided chemical illustration system 
 -  Apparatus and method for monitoring the validity of a molecular model 
 -  Method and apparatus for determining molecular crystal structures 
 -  Process and apparatus for the x-ray diffraction characterization of 
      a material with amorphous phase 
 -  System and method for reducing phase ambiguity of crystal structure 
      factors
 -  Maximum likelihood density modification by pattern recognition 
      of structural motifs
 -  Linear prediction of structure factors in x-ray crystallography 
 -  High-resolution crystallographic modelling of a macromolecule
 -  Fitting of X-ray scattering data using evolutionary algorithms

-----------

Another interesting and related area is that of "Crystallographic
Business Method patents", where you don't patent an invention - but
patent the business method of using an invention.  Have not done a 

thorough search of the USPTO web database on this area 
  (http://www.uspto.gov/patft/)

But this could also have significant effects of crystallography in the
future: 

A possible example of this style of thing could be:
US Patent Number: 6,411,676   Publication Date: 25th June 2002

  http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=6411676

Title: "Method for determining parameters of a unit cell of a crystal
        structure using diffraction"

Does this mean that some neutron (or X-ray) single crystal
diffractometers might be moving their motors in an unauthorized
way that infringes a current US patent monopoly?  That would be
for the lawyers to decide in a patent infringement case - if
you had the funding to defend?

-----------

Another possible example could be:
 United States Patent Application: 20020107643  
 Date: August 8, 2002 

Title: "Process for pan-genomic determination of macromolecular atomic
       structures."

You may have bought the equipment, but that does not mean can legally
use it as desired?

http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='20020107643'.PGNR.&OS=DN/20020107643&RS=DN/20020107643

----------

What is to stop someone patenting the business method of pointing
a cryostream at a crystal?  Based on the US Patent Office - not much
given they are willing to allow the patenting of the Business Method
of swinging on a swing:

US Patent 6,368,227 titled "Method of swinging on a swing" 
Filed: November 17, 2000.
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=6,368,227

It should be noted in the patent text that:

  "Licenses are available from the inventor upon request."

Again, you may own a piece of equipment (e.g., in this case a child's
swing) - but that does not mean you have the right to use it - as
someone may have a patent monopoly on part or all of its use - in which
you or your children may be infringing. If you extrapolate this type of
business methods patent to crystallographic equipment(?) . . .  It
seems to be happening already.

Lachlan.

-----------------------
Lachlan M. D. Cranswick
Neutron Program for Materials Research (NPMR),
National Research Council (NRC),
  Postal Address:
    NPMR, NRC,
    Building 459, Station 18,
    Chalk River Laboratories,
    Chalk River, Ontario,
    Canada, K0J 1J0                  Fax: (613) 584-4040
Tel (work): (613) 584-8811  Office:  ext 3719 ; C2 diff: ext 3039
Email: lachlan.cranswick at nrc.gc.ca   WWW: http://neutron.nrc.ca/
Tel (home): (613) 584-4226           WWW: http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/
Home Email:  lachlan at melbpc.org.au  Mobile/Cell phone: 613 401 3433
             P.O. Box 2057, Deep River, Ontario, Canada, K0J 1P0

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