When is reading out loud patentable?

I’ve added a wiki page for analysing the "Cabinet for the blind" example. It’s an example that was used in a 1980 amicus brief for the Diamond v. Diehr case in the USA. Below are the details. In looking into this, I also turned up a few interesting quotes about pen and paper patents. Comments welcome on the wiki.

Thought examples are important so that we can test our proposals and our legal wordings out. More examples can be found at analyses of the patentability of specific ideas.

In the example, the patent office is presented with a cabinet that accepts books and an outside person can hear them being read aloud.

Martin Goetz (who argues in favour of software patents) gives an example with two possibilities for what’s in the: innovative hardware or innovative software. His example presumes there’s a computer, so he doesn’t address the idea of performing the same task via a human in a cabinet. Here’s his text:

An inventor demonstrates his new invention to his patent attorney with great pride; he has developed a cabinet for reading books out loud to the blind. The cabinet contains both a reading and talking computer. After the demonstration, the patent attorney responds:

What’s inside the cabinet? Did you build it with software or hardware (a stored program or hardware circuitry)? If built with a hardware program, your machine would be patentable. But if you built it with a stored program, the Patent Office would say it was merely mathematics and, therefore, unpatentable.”

For Goetz, this is proof that software innovations and hardware innovations are similar. From there, he says they should be treated identically by the patent office. Campaigns against software patents obviously disagree – there’s a world of difference between how hardware and software are developed and distributed, and how patents affect these fields.

This raises a question similar to technical solutions, not technical problems.


I’ve disabled comments because the wiki has a fine system for collecting comments: