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A sophisticated algorithm for drug design.

A sophisticated algorithm for simulating turbulent flow near jet engines.

A sophisticated algorithm for optimizing [some complicated industrial process].

If you want a specific example, this is just what I got from a google patent search for "rational drug design", but: http://www.google.com/patents?id=3b8kAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&...

I was under the impression that algorithms are specifically not patentable


Applications of algorithms are patentable, not the algorithms themselves. (un-cited e.g. using machine learning for handwriting recognition)

> e.g. using machine learning for handwriting recognition

This is one of the problems with software patents. Using machine learning for handwriting recognition is a pretty obvious "innovation" to anyone with a little background in AI who has thought about the problem at all. If we allow people to patent "using machine learning for X" for all activities X, that blocks a lot of innovation. The field is moving so fast right now that people are thinking of new ideas all the time; we don't need patents to encourage that.

There are some non-obvious algorithms that are worthy of patenting (that is, if algorithms were actually patentable). One that comes to mind is the fast inverse square root algorithm (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Fast_inverse_...). In our field, trade secret (e.g. compiled source code) is usually sufficient to provide protection against a competitor stealing a novel algorithm, rendering patents largely unnecessary.

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