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
    TriZz, 23 Mar 2010 @ 4:47am

    This is crap

    My business partner is a web developer by day and does some innovative stuff. He was researching once how to get Flash to do something...and he couldn't find anything. Posting on forums led him to a bunch of "you can't do that" responses.

    So, he essentially made it happen. I wouldn't call it inventing...but it certainly hadn't been done before. Figured it out is probably a better term.

    His response was to go into that same forum and post the code for everyone.

    He did this, not to be a braggart, but rather to give back to the community. He wouldn't be the web developer that he is today if people hadn't helped him and freely shared code when he was first starting out. And this is his way of showing his appreciation. It could spark someone else to "figure out" how to do other innovative stuff, thus progressing the field.

    If only we all thought like that...

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