04 June 2009

Knuth: Every Algorithm is Sacred

One of my computer heroes, Donald Knuth, has sent a message to the head of the EPO, hoping to convince her that every algorithm is sacred, and should not be delivered up to become the personal, exclusive, proprietary possession of any one person or company:

Basically I remain convinced that the patent policy most fair and most suitable for the world will regard mathematical ideas (such as algorithms) to be not subject to proprietary patent rights. For example, it would be terrible if somebody were to have a patent on an integer, like say 1009, so that nobody would be able to use that number "with further technical effect" without paying for a license. Although many software patents have unfortunately already been granted in the past, I hope that this practice will not continue in future. If Europe leads the way in this, I expect many Americans would want to emigrate so that they could continue to innovate in peace!

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