[FoRK] technology as a life form

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Mon Nov 2 11:32:12 PST 2015

There's certainly an economic incentive to walking the fine line
between explaining enough to get a patent and explaining enough that
"one skilled in the art" can reproduce the patented technology.  This
was a significant, explicit part of how we wrote patents at GE, for

Not to mention that even with best intentions industrial practice
invariably has all sorts of details that are hard to define and
communicate.  We used to have a rule of thumb that you couldn't
transfer technologies, only people, and my personal experience has
certainly confirmed this -- like when we had to bring back a retiree
to fine-tune a tungsten filament production process.  Competence only
got us so far; genuine expertise required years (decades, actually) of


On Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 10:41 AM, Gregory Alan Bolcer <greg at bolcer.org> wrote:
> Or gawd forbid--the patent examiner doesn't get it.
> On Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 10:39 AM, J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at jarbox.org> wrote:
>> 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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