About This Blog
Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.
- Artificial Invention
- Design & Engineering
- Evolutionary Computation
- Genie in the Machine
- History of Computing
- Human Creativity
- Intellectual Property Law
- Philosophy of Computing
- Software Patents
- Technology Industry
May 13, 2009
Nerd Culture Lives On
As computers and technology became more prevalent in everyday life, one would think that the stereotype of the computer nerd would have faded away. This has not been the case, according to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Lori Kendall. The negative stereotype of the nerd as a white male with glasses, poor social skills and a command of obscure knowledge remains stronger than ever in popular culture. Kendall's analysis has found that the nerd continues to be a common stock character in movies, TV shows, and advertisements. This stereotype may actually be driving women and minorities away from careers in information technology. Kendall believes the stereotype is rooted in a deep-seated uneasiness with computer technology and its influence on our lives.
April 1, 2009
Patent Granted on Software for Writing Software Patents
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted a patent on the process of writing software patents, entitled, "Method and System for Generating Functional Description of Patentable Subject Matter on a Computer-Readable Medium." The basic technique covered by the patent involves:
- applying natural-language processing to a database of existing software patents (what patent lawyers call "prior art") to create a database of features of existing software;
- receiving a description of a deficiency in existing software;
- using a genetic algorithm to "evolve" a new combination of software features which lack the described deficiency; and
- automatically creating a description of the resulting software, suitable for use in a patent application.
One example provided in the patent is that players of online massively multiplayer games enjoy sending text messages to each other while they are playing, but lack the time to compose their messages carefully, leading to potentially embarrassing gaffes (such as mistyping "brb" ("be right back") as the meaningless "brub"). This problem can be solved by combining the existing spell-checking feature from a word processor with the existing instant-messaging feature of a game, and additionally modifying the spell-checker's dictionary to understand "text speak" abbreviations.
The patent's owner and sole inventor, Patrick Entwhistle Trohl, Jr., said in a press release that he plans to file thousands of additional patent applications in the coming years, all of which will be written by his patented patent-writing software. As of the writing of this blog entry, he had not responded to the question whether he was concerned that his existing patent could be used as prior art against his subsequent patent applications, thereby rendering all of them unpatentable.