Patents on Mathematical Algorithms

It has long been a distinguishing mark that ideas and concepts generated by the queen of quantitative and formal sciences are incapable of patent protection. If we are charitable, one might say this is because the queen does not touch money. But, as it goes so often in matters legal, this is a case of “not so fast” because there are, of course, exceptions. And questionable logic.

First, let’s take a look at the topology of mathematics in the USPTO’s value system:  while it requires mathematics coursework as a prerequisite of its employees working as patent examiners in the computer arts, it does not recognize mathematics courses as qualifying for patent practitioners. Quite the contrary: while bachelor’s degrees in 32 subjects will constitute adequate proof of requisite scientific and technical training, not to mention a full two-and-one-half pages of acceptable alternatives, the General Requirements Bulletin for Admission to the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office lists Typical Non-Acceptable Course Work that is not accepted to demonstrate scientific and technical training, notably “… machine operation (wiring, soldering, etc.), courses taken on a pass/fail basis, correspondence courses, home or personal independent study courses, high school level courses, mathematics courses, one day conferences, …” Consequently, it cannot come as a surprise that there are precious few patent attorneys with significant mathematical training as required to understand the mathematics underlying contemporary, much less future, science and technology.