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Looks like the "idea" of the patent in the description is to use a predictor to predict when a STORE and LOAD alias and not speculate the LOAD and any instruction depending on the load (although the claims generalize this to any non-static dependency).

As it generally happens in software/hardware patents, the claimed solution seems quite obvious whenever one wants to solve that particular problem, and the hard part is the "execution", i.e. implementing it efficiently and figuring out whether the tradeoffs are worth it.

So assigning patents to things like this seems really dumb.

I strongly agree with you. To patent an idea with no definition of execution seems too broad to me.

An easy example is to patent an "opening mechanism that requires force" (door). Yes, that's an idea but can have different ways to execute, sliding door, regular opening door, suicide doors.

Now a patent on the hinge that performs the operation seems more concrete. The exact execution of said idea.

What is your basis for the claim they've not evaluated the tradeoffs or tried to design an efficient implementation?

The patent seems to be based on this paper: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=264189. It has an extensive experimental evaluation. Another thing to keep in mind is that Sohi, Vijaykumar and Moshovos are all respected computer architecture researchers, and this paper was published in ISCA, which is the best and most competitive forum for computer architecture research.

That might be true, but that doesn't mean it's something that should be patented.

Would you like to expand on why you think it shouldn't be patented?

Architectural optimizations are often dismissed by outsiders as being "obvious", but what they don't see are all the other "obvious" ideas that don't work for various subtle reasons. I worry that if you make these techniques unpatentable, they'd become trade secrets and nobody would publish them, and we'd be worse off as a community.

I hear that "nobody would publish" argument bandied about... but is there any evidence to back it up?

These were University researchers. It's not like they're in it for the crazy-$$. In my experience, they'd publish anyway... for all the right reasons: furthering humanity, intellectual curiosity, academic prestige, etc.

University researchers like John Hennessy (current President of Stanford), who made a bunch of money founding MIPS and Atheros (both of which were valued heavily for their patent portfolios)?

The order matters. He was a professor first (did the publishing) and then founded the companies second. So there are really two questions:

(1) When he was a professor, would he have still published the work even if he couldn't patent and profit from it later? My assertion: Yes, he probably would've still published.

(2) Would he have founded MIPS (and made it successful) w/o the patents? I don't know, but that was beyond the scope of my claims. ;) Or perhaps: If he hadn't patented it, but just published... then would other companies have picked up his technology (for free) and integrated it into their products, resulting in a net win for society anyway?

Because of the 1-year publication bar, you basically have to prepare a patent application concurrently with publication. So in practice publishing and patenting are simultaneous.

You also have to consider the prospective impact of the rule. Would smart ambitious people go into the PhD/academia track if they couldn't parlay research into a business opportunity? Many wouldn't.

Of course patents aren't a necessary condition for turning research into a business. But for hard R&D type businesses, they're a pretty important criteria to getting investment.

Anecdotally, having worked at AMD and Intel, both companies have lots of internal knowledge about what it takes to produce a high-performance x86 processor. Some of it comes out as patents, but if you outlawed that, I guarantee you none of it would be known to the public.

Given the incredibly long life of patents relative to how quickly the computer industry moves (still, in the post-Moore's Law era), I'd argue trade secrets would be preferable.

If someone did implement this into a chip that was successful, it would take a lot less than 20 years to reverse engineer how they did it, even if they took steps to avoid reverse engineering.

The patent is at least more innovative than Slide to Unlock. If you encourage crappy patents, they are gonna bite you some day.

I actually think slide to unlock is brilliant, specially the old skeuomorphic ”track on rail” one. The new, cleaner one is made possible by old one being burned into our collective unconscious.

I also think “one click to buy” is brilliant.

Since it's impossible to unambiguously distinguish between crappy and worthy patents, we should either abolish them, or have them last for a really short time, like a year or two. Plenty for the inventor to secure its return on the research's investment, not enough to stifle innovation.

>slide to unlock is brilliant

How? It's a digital slide bolt. They just digitized a simple mechanism that's been in use for hundreds of years.

Right, but using that in a human/computer interface was not possible/intuitive until capacitive touch screen was available, and even then it was a stroke of genius to "port" real life object interaction into the software realm.

They didn't patent the gesture, the patented its usage in the human/software interface context.

That is the only context in which that gesture makes sense.

You couldn't patent the steering wheel just because you stick it in something that's not a car. You'd have to use it for something that's not steering or wheeling. Slide-to-unlock is obvious because it's based on a bolt that you ... slide to unlock. There's no novelty in unlocking something, software or not, by solving such a simple 'puzzle' as moving your finger sideways. It's certainly not a stroke of genius.

  > even then it was a stroke of genius to "port" real life object interaction into the software realm
This is my first encounter with someone who thinks that "doing X on a computer" is a stroke of genius. If X is not patentable, "porting" it into the software realm shouldn't either.

You've apparently never met anyone from the patent bar. Their entire purpose nowadays is often to justify monopolies based on nothing more than doing it on a computer. [0] The judges of the CAFC -- the patent court -- make a deliberate effort to pose as innocent fools being astonished by the most basic applications of computers. [1] That's the root of the new power of the patent system.

Of course, the current subject proves that even legitimate worthwhile research can produce absurd and abusive patents.

[0] http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-or...


Something can be brilliant without being innovative. Most people have no problems operating a "slide your finger on the screen to do more" widget, even without being trained by Apple's original visuals.

Think about it. A touch screen can only detect a limited number of basic interactions. All interactions with the software must occur through those basic primitives. Touching the screen and moving your finger are really the only two things the interface can recognize.

I think you're conflating "brilliant" with "obvious".

It's like if someone was called brilliant for suggesting that we should turn our phone screens off when they aren't in use to save battery. It's just the obvious solution, and patenting it and enforcing that patent is just meant to create obstacles for competitors.

Apple thinks it own the very idea of the smartphone. They even claimed they owned curved corners... It is nice to see them get a taste of their own medicine.

It would be great if they won, just so we could use the precedent to make them lose all of the asinine lawsuits they start.

I think they might be synonyms. Finding the obvious could be considered the pinnacle of insight. Of course, once it is found, it is obvious, but until someone says it, it may not be.

I agree that finding the obvious should not entitle you to "own" it or allow you to prevent others from using the insight.

Anyone who does claim that (e.g. Apple) should be ridiculed mercilessly for it.

I think brilliant or even innovative should not be the same thing as patentable. The (possible impossible) standard should be "would someone else have come up with this." In both of those example, I think the answer is almost certainly yes.

Give 100 UI designers a touch screen and ask them to design a few unlock mechanisms each, I think you will get a slide to unlock pretty quickly. On click purchase (is this a troll) is basically saving billing and shipping details.

Here's the theory about what's supposed to be patentable:

Statutory material: No matter how brilliant, a poem, law of nature, mathematical algorithm or computer program is supposedly not patentable. Lots of details at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2106.html

Novelty: It has to be new. This is where prior art comes in.

Non-obviousness: This is the test for patenability you're talking about. It can be hard to judge obviousness in hindsight. There are so many specialty areas today that it's unreasonable to expect the patent office to be able to determine what would be obvious to an ordinary practitioner in every area of invention.

I think it is pretty irrefutable that Jefferson would be against "but on a computer..." patents like slide to unlock based on the copious amount of writing he did on the subject of patents in his time. see, for example:


Is slide to unlock a clever UI mechanism to put on a phone? Sure. Should that entitle it to a 20-ish year monopoly as an idea irrespective of implementation? I don't see how a reasonable person comes up with an answer other than "of course not".

The entire patent system is so far twisted from what it was intended for, it is really quite a shame.

Luckily, patents aren't granted for ideas, but for specific executions. Granted, the execution is generally defined at a higher level than, say, "this exact chunk of silicon". But it's at a much lower level than the "idea".

When it comes to digital technology patents are often granted for ideas or concepts so general as to be ridiculous. Whether those patents stand up in court is another thing but even there -- as in this case -- there are no guarantees of sanity. I hope Apple will appeal.

The more general and broad the patent the more valuable it is. The system rewards big general patents.

In the case in question, there appears to be no implementation or execution by the UW folks, certainly not one appropriated by Apple. This looks like an "idea" about instruction scheduling to me.

5.1 Methodology The results we present have been collected on a simulator that faithfully represents a Multiscalar processor.


Dynamic Speculation and Synchronization of Data Dependences, Moshovos et al, Proc. ISCA-24, June 1997

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