uane suggests:

I looked up some reviews and found the quote that Alfredo gave ("I would

have really expected a pointer to any of these documents, which explain how

serious and damaging for a market economy the whole issue is:") The

original page is at:

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=6514. I highly recommend

checking this full page out even if you get the book by Mr. Fink.

This page lists a bunch of links about the problems with software patents

and one of those links led me to this letter from Donald Knuth to the Patent

office which I have included here in its entirety:

Letter to the Patent Office

From Professor Donald Knuth

Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks

Box 4

Patent and Trademark Office

Washington, DC 20231

Dear Commissioner:

Along with many other computer scientists, I would like to ask you to

reconsider the current policy of giving patents for computational

processes. I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of

practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and

the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult

for programmers.

In the period 1945-1980, it was generally believed that patent law did

not pertain to software. However, it now appears that some people

have received patents for algorithms of practical importance--e.g.,

Lempel-Ziv compression and RSA public key encryption--and are now

legally preventing other programmers from using these algorithms.

This is a serious change from the previous policy under which the

computer revolution became possible, and I fear this change will be

harmful for society. It certainly would have had a profoundly

negative effect on my own work: For example, I developed software

called TeX that is now used to produce more than 90% of all books

and journals in mathematics and physics and to produce hundreds of

thousands of technical reports in all scientific disciplines. If

software patents had been commonplace in 1980, I would not have been

able to create such a system, nor would I probably have ever thought

of doing it, nor can I imagine anyone else doing so.

I am told that the courts are trying to make a distinction between

mathematical algorithms and nonmathematical algorithms. To a computer

scientist, this makes no sense, because every algorithm is as

mathematical as anything could be. An algorithm is an abstract

concept unrelated to physical laws of the universe.

Nor is it possible to distinguish between "numerical" and

"nonnumerical" algorithms, as if numbers were somehow different from

other kinds of precise information. All data are numbers, and all

numbers are data. Mathematicians work much more with symbolic entities

than with numbers.

Therefore the idea of passing laws that say some kinds of algorithms

belong to mathematics and some do not strikes me as absurd as the 19th

century attempts of the Indiana legislature to pass a law that the

ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is exactly 3, not

approximately 3.1416. It's like the medieval church ruling that the

sun revolves about the earth. Man-made laws can be significantly

helpful but not when they contradict fundamental truths.

Congress wisely decided long ago that mathematical things cannot be

patented. Surely nobody could apply mathematics if it were necessary

to pay a license fee whenever the theorem of Pythagoras is

employed. The basic algorithmic ideas