[FoRK] technology as a life form

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Mon Nov 2 10:39:38 PST 2015

>   Even the most explicit paper or patent application fails to
>   reveal nearly enough to help another to retrace the steps through
>   the maze of possible experiments. One study of lasers found that
>   blueprints and written reports were quite inadequate to help
>   others copy a laser design: You had to go and talk to the people
>   who had done it. So a patent often does not achieve the openness
>   that it is supposed to but instead hinders progress.

This is characteristic of many patents that are legitimately non-obvious. A description of an implementation understandable by a person of ordinary skill does not imply that the *why* of an implementation is obvious to a person of ordinary or even extraordinary skill. You definitely see this with some algorithm patents. 

The advantage this gives companies is that you can arbitrage the difference between “why” and “how”, which is valuable due to the limited enforceability of many patents in practice. There are interesting cases where a patent describes a process that is substantially superior to any existing art, encouraging people to adopt it, but reductions to practice by someone that knows “why” are qualitatively superior to someone that only knows “how”. The ability to construct a patent this way is actually reflects the quality of the invention.

In effect, it gives you a patent and a trade secret for the same invention.

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