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You can't patent an idea, only an implementation of an idea.

While that may technically he the case, the USPTO has allowed the "application" of ideas to be so broad as to effectively be just a patent on ideas.

There are a million different ways you could implement a "one click checkout" yet the USPTO granted a "one click checkout" patent to Amazon. And countless similar parents exist today. (podcast patent, online shopping cart patent, a patent on making 'toast' and on and on)

Having a patent doesn't mean the patent is valid. I think something like 50% of patents are declared invalid during litigation. (This obviously doesn't mean 50% of patents are invalid, since you probably don't go to trial unless you think you have a reasonable chance of winning).

Plus, a lot of those software patents are not valid[0]. The validity of software patents in general and what qualifies as patentable with regards to software is still an open question.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilski_v._Kappos

A meaningful idea in software engineering at least is, in many many cases, an algorithm (until we're talking about ideas like "lets make the best compression") Straightforward implementation of the algorithm in say C is hardly a novel thing on it's own. So what is patentable here as an implementation, and what - isn't as an idea? (Note: I do have several crappy ideas software patents myself :)

But I think the point is that if there is really only one viable implementation of an idea, they’re effectively patenting the idea via the implementation.

I'm trying to wrap my head around your distinction - is pseudo code that demonstrates Quicksort different than an actual implementation of it in, say, C, C++, Python?

How about where the line's even thinner - Amazon's infamous 'one click purchase' 'algorithm' - which they managed to patent - would you call that an 'idea'? An 'implementation'? A 'process'?

I think anything, including ideas can be patented - and if Google is trying to go by the spirit of the law rather than being Pharisaic about it, they need to cut this guy in for a percentage of the patent of his idea, rather than shafting him because they can.

He doesn't want money, he wants his work to be in the public domain.

Implementations are ideas too.

The distinction does not make sense.

Aren't drugs patents ideas and not implementations?

Generally, drug patents list the molecular structure, chemical formula, and specific method which they utilize to arrive at the finished product.

If a drug patent hasn't passed phase 3 trials isn't it just an idea?

Clinical trials and regulatory approval are independent of the patent process. This should make sense because a patent is a right to exclude others, not a right to do something. For example, just because you have a patent on a new drug doesn't mean you can actually sell it to patients.

You don't have to have a physically working thing to patent it. You can patent something that's just an "idea" as long as the idea is physically realizable. Ideally the patent examiner knows enough about the field that patent is in to decide whether something is likely to work in practice or whether it is just some bogus invention that has no chance of working.

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