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Word Count: 948
Software consists of lists of instructions that a computer reads andexecutes The tasks done by a computer are largely repetitive the samechunks of instructions are executed many times Each chunk performs onespecific task and goes by the label algorithm a method for accomplishing aspecific task In the United States it is possible to obtain a patent fora software algorithm One example of a patented software algorithm is theLZW software algorithm The LZW patent is owned by Unisys The algorithmis commonly used to compress an image file into a format know as theGraphics Interchange Format gif Patent law was created to protect therights of the inventor and to encourage innovation The thinking was thatan inventor would be more inclined to reveal his invention to the public ifhe knew that a rival would not steal his design and undercut the originalinventors business By encouraging inventors to share inventions with allpatent law tries to improve society Patent law however is far fromperfect particularly in the area of software patents it has failedmiserably to create innovation or to improve society Like the prophecy ofthe witches in Macbeth things are not always as they seem Software patentsmay appear to be good at first glance but in reality they stifle innovationFirst the idea of patenting a software algorithm steps into the realm ofabsurdity As previously stated an algorithm describes a concrete set ofinstructions which upon execution by a computer perform a specific taskThe above definition however includes one erroneous detail theinstructions in an algorithm need not be executed by a computer A computergreatly speeds the execution but a human being can just as easily albeitslower execute the steps in an algorithm With this knowledge onestruggles to grasp what exactly Unisys has patented Have they patented theidea of the algorithm or the actual written software form of the algorithmIf the patent governs the software form only then what happens when aprogrammer uses a different programming language to write the same algorithmin a
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