Remember When You Couldn't Patent Math? Good Times
from the patenting-counting... dept
Ah, it really was just recently that we were talking about the seminal Supreme Court case, Gottschalk v. Benson, in which the Justices made it clear that you cannot just patent an algorithm that converts numbers:
It is conceded that one may not patent an idea. But in practical effect that would be the result if the formula for converting BCD numerals to pure binary numerals were patented in this case. The mathematical formula involved here has no substantial practical application except in connection with a digital computer, which means that if the judgment below is affirmed, the patent would wholly pre-empt the mathematical formula and in practical effect would be a patent on the algorithm itself.
I’m reminded of that, after seeing Dealbreaker’s headline about how world famous mutual fund investor, Bill Gross, of PIMCO, has patented the methodology for his bond fund — or, as Dealbreaker correctly points out, he “patented a way to count.” Indeed, the patent in question, US Patent 8,306,892 is somewhat hideous, describing not much more than the concept of an algorithm that weights regions based on GDP. The key claim:
A computer-implemented method of managing a fixed income financial index, the method comprising: storing in a computer memory a regional weight for each of a plurality of regions of the world, each of the regional weights based at least in part on a gross domestic product for the region; storing in a computer memory, for each of the plurality of regions, a category weight for each of a plurality of categories of fixed income financial instruments issued from the region; storing in a computer memory asset data for a universe of fixed income instruments representing each of the plurality of categories of instruments in each of the plurality of regions, the fixed income instruments comprising one or more of the following: (i) fixed income securities, (ii) fixed income derivatives, or (iii) fixed income forwards; programmatically allocating, via execution of instructions by one or more computer processors, one or more constituent instruments from the universe of fixed income instruments to each of the plurality of categories in each of the plurality of regions; programmatically determining a constituent weight for each of the constituents allocated to each of the plurality of categories in each of the plurality of regions; programmatically calculating a subindex for each of the plurality of categories in each of the plurality of regions, each subindex based at least in part on the allocated constituents and the respective constituent weights, wherein the constituent weights for a first subindex comprise market capitalization weights and the constituent weights for a second subindex comprise gross-domestic product weights; and programmatically transforming the subindices, the category weights, and the regional weights into a value for the financial index.
It doesn’t take a patent specialist to figure out that this is basically patenting a spreadsheet for weighting countries on a few different factors. It seems to be the exact kind of thing that was disallowed by the Supreme Court under Gottschalk v. Benson. And yet, the USPTO waved it right on through. Kinda makes you wonder what the hell patent examiner Samica L. Norman was thinking in approving such a ridiculous patent.