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Researching just to create software patents

I was recently reading the paper “ARC++: Effective Typestate and Lifetime Dependency Analysis” (cannot find a public pdf now). What caught my attention was the fact it involved static analysis of C++ source, something that few researchers get involved in because of the technical complexity of parsing C++. I wanted to know more and guess what popped up near the top of a Google search, a patent with almost the same title as the paper and with many of the paper’s authors listed as the inventors!

As far as I can tell the Claims section of the patent does not list anything new or novel (in fact the only prior art listed was added by the patent examiner). It is not hard to understand why this patent exists; the main paper author works in an NEC research laboratory and commercial research labs have to ‘pay’ their way by producing patents that the parent company can brandish at competitors.

At least it looks like the patent was applied for before the paper was published. The most extreme case of paper published followed by patent application, sometime later, I have encountered was during my spell as an adviser to the Monitoring Trustee appointed by the European Commission in the EU/Microsoft competition court case. One of the non-patented innovations being claimed by Microsoft (or perhaps the patent had been granted, my memory is fuzzy) was for something described in a PhD thesis whose author went to work for Microsoft, after completing his PhD; this was back in the day when typing a couple of technical terms and the name listed as the patent inventor into a search engine was still something new for bean counters.

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