Why Real Programmers Don't Take The USPTO Seriously: Doubly-Linked List Patented

from the oh-come-on dept

It's pretty difficult to find software engineers who take the patent system seriously. There are a few, but it's still pretty difficult. For the most part, they recognize that code is just a tool: you can make it do all sorts of things, given enough time and resources, but that doesn't mean that doing any particular thing in code is an "invention" that no one else should be able to do. And then, sometimes, they discover that something pretty basic and old has suddenly been given a patent. Brad Feld discusses his discovery that doubly linked lists were apparently patented in 2006 (patent number 7,028,023):
The prior art was extremely thin, only went back to 1995, and didn't mention that entire computer languages have been created around the list as a core data structure.  One of my first Pascal programming exercises in high school (in 1981 -- on an Apple II using USDC Pascal) was to write a series of operations on lists, including both linked and doubly-linked lists (I always thought it was funny they were called "doubly-linked" instead of "double-linked" lists.)  Anyone who ever graduated from MIT and took 6.001 learned to love all varieties of the linked list, including the doubly-linked one.  That was 1984 for me by the way.

Ironically, Wikipedia had great entries -- with source code no less -- about both linked lists and doubly-linked lists.  The linked list history goes back to 2001, well before the patent was filed.

Another day, another reason to question why software is patentable at all -- and to question who approves these kinds of patents.

Filed Under: doubly-linked lists, patents, prior art, uspto


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  1. identicon
    angry dude, 24 Mar 2010 @ 9:11am

    Re: Patentable software

    4 years to grant ?

    Lucky you

    How about 4 years til 1st office action ?

    "If the USPTO would subject software patent applications to the same rigor they subject hardware patents (non-obvious solution to a problem, no relevant prior art, etc),"

    Ua kidding right ?

    Perhaps you don't know but a simple ethernet plug has some 600 patents on it

    Hardware patenting is also screwed big time

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