Sunday, 7 March 2010

The case against software patents just got another pillar

Admittedly, it's a bit delayed in coming to light, but I've just helped push this article around the twittersphere:

For those too busy to follow links, the gist of that article is that one Ming-Jen Wang of LSI Logic Corp patented the Linked List. Now, this would probably be seen as ok, if the patent had been granted back in the early days of computing when the Linked List was first being used... it would have set the development of the field back a couple of decades, but it would have made sense back then. However, this patent was granted in 2006! I learnt about Linked Lists in my introductory Algorithms course back in 2005, using books that were probably about 10 years old then. In fact, checking the wikipedia page, it seems that the Linked List is pretty much celebrating its 55th birthday this year. That's not just older than me, that's as old as my boss!

I'm guessing the requirement for prior art is being discontinued? I can't think of any other reason why someone could patent a data structure that is so old that even if it had been patented, the patent would have expired before I was born.