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Michael F. Martin
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I will be retiring the Broken Symmetry blog from Typepad soon. At least for now, the posts will be available on Wordpress. Longer term, I'll have a presence at But that site is not yet live. Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2016 at Broken Symmetry
Cool paper from Brady and Anderson: We brought Maxwell’s 1861 model of a magnetic line of force up to date using modern knowledge of polarised waves and of experiments on quantised magnetic flux. Our model obeys the equations for Euler’s fluid and supports light-like solutions which are polarised, absorbed discretely,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2016 at Broken Symmetry
In 2005, Furusawa et al. reported log-normal distributions in protein concentration in bacteria, and showed how these log-normal distributions might arise from Brownian dynamics. Not all cell characteristics arise from Brownian dynamics (i.e., multiplicative stochastic dynamics with a linear noise term) or exhibit log-normal distributions. For example, cell size distributions... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at Broken Symmetry
Thinking about closing this blog -- I'm down to one post a year! Here's a list of best books read in 2015. Again, no particular order Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies Andreas M. Antonopoulos Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time David Prerau My Best... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2016 at Broken Symmetry
In no particular order. The best might have been A General Theory of Love and A Guide to the Good Life because of their pragmatic value. The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind: B. Alan Wallace Ph.D., Daniel Goleman The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2015 at Broken Symmetry
Shuji Nakamura was one of three who shared the Nobel in Physics this week. Prof. Nakamura, who now teaches at UCSB, was also the plaintiff under Article 35 of the Japanese Patent Act against his former employer Nichia. Article 35 provides a right to reasonable compensation for inventors. The court... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at Broken Symmetry
From the Oatmeal's Matthew Inman: To finish what we started and build an actual Nikola Tesla Science Center... And Musk says yes! @Oatmeal I would be happy to help— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2014 Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2014 at Broken Symmetry
To most people, capital means a bank account, a hundred shares of IBM stock, assembly lines, or steel plants in the Chicago area. These are all forms of capital in the sense that they are assets that yield income and other useful outputs over long periods of time. But such... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at Broken Symmetry
Really good article by Ryan Tanaka posted at the Ribbon Farm blog: Social media is, in effect, the administration and organization of people, similar to what businesses, governments, institutions, and religious organizations do in worlds offline. The software industry has, however, been generally skeptical of comparing its work with anything... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at Broken Symmetry
NPR follows-up on story of two years ago: Two years ago, we did a program about a mysterious business in Texas that threatens companies with lawsuits for violating its patents. But the world of patent lawsuits is so secretive, there were basic questions we could not answer. Now we can.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2013 at Broken Symmetry
I'm intrigued by the way crowdsourced funding is upsetting the balance of power in financing new films, and companies. The basic trend is toward less and less friction (or what Coase calls "transaction costs") in obtaining financing. At the limit, we have perfectly efficient financing in which ideas receive funding... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2013 at Broken Symmetry
Dennis, I don't know the answer to your question. I imagine that Judge Lourie and his colleagues in the plurality opinion would say that simply adding a web page to the claims at issue in this case would fall within the category of "merely tangential" limitations that are not sufficient to avoid the abstract idea exception. Which gets to your "however." I acknowledge the point that the analysis of abstractness is independent of the analysis of obviousness. The opinion goes to some trouble to make that clear. But that doesn't mean that the same facts can't be used in the two different analyses. In other words, it may be "merely tangential" to add a web page to a claim now. But it might well have been a significant contribution ten or fifteen years ago. The analyses are not entirely orthogonal, and I don't read the opinions to deem them so. Just different.
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My $0.02 I think Dennis may have mistitled this post. Even the plurality opinion leaves a lot of room for software to be eligible subject matter. The way I read it, the category of software patents that are at highest risk by the plurality opinion are those in which the method (CRM, system, etc.) covers an abstract idea that could have been performed by people (assuming people had memory and processing power like computers) without more. But even a software patent that claims an abstract idea might still be eligible so long as in addition to the abstract idea, the claim covers something else, which the plurality emphasizes must be practical and tangible (slip at 20). Like the financial services industry, there are many industries in which software is being implemented to do things that people have done for a long time before computers were invented, but not as efficiently. I would agree that CLS Bank categorically denies eligibility to claims that seek the exclusive right to automate with software. But the software industry itself has moved far beyond simply automating work that used to be done by people. How is a web page an automation of anything? CLS Bank is equally categorical in its recognition that even incremental improvements to software may be eligible. The way this comes out actually feels a lot like KSR. There isn't an easy rule for defining whether something is obvious or abstract. Every idea has a story behind it. One way to read the opinions in both cases is that you have to hear the story before you decide the issue. You can't decide the issue in the abstract looking only at what is claimed.
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From A. D. Wissner-Gross and C. E. Freer: we have explicitly proposed a novel physical connection between adaptive behavior and entropy maximization They get some pretty interesting results from some parsimonious assumptions. See also this earlier post linking to the work by Kaila and Annila on the Principle of Least... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2013 at Broken Symmetry
Very interesting article and graphics here: I have to say that as I look at the plots above, I’m struck by their similarity to plots for physical processes like chemical reactions. It’s as if all those humans, with all the complexities of their lives, still behave in aggregate a bit... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2013 at Broken Symmetry
by Acemoglu, Ozdaglar, and Tahbaz-Selehi: This paper provides a tractable theoretical framework for the study of the economic forces shap- ing the relationship between the structure of the financial network and systemic risk. We show that as long as the magnitude (or the number) of negative shocks is below a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2013 at Broken Symmetry
From William H. Press and Freeman J. Dyson The two-player Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma game is a model for both sentient and evolutionary behaviors, especially including the emergence of cooperation. It is generally assumed that there exists no simple ultimatum strategy whereby one player can enforce a unilateral claim to an... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
Presented yesterday at the IP Scholars Conference: A key assumption of today’s standard account of patents is that, absent patent protection, all products would generally be purchased in a competitive market. However, the first regularized patent system appeared during the Renaissance in the Venetian Republic, which was a highly regulated... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
I have only one comment on the excellent New Yorker piece recently published about Stanford, whose title asks whether Stanford has become too influenced by commercial concerns. As a culture, why shouldn't we be equally concerned with answering a related question -- i.e., have corporations, and especially their R&D groups,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
Long time readers may recall posts discussing the potential use of inventory turnover ratios in measuring the value of an invention. See How do you measure innovation without reference to patents? and Reigniting the Engine of Growth with the Sparkplug of Invention. Here's a nice article summarizing how that plays... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
Here, here to Ms. Glovsky for her accurate diagnosis of the problem. Less enthusastic am I about her prescriptions, which run counter to centuries of property law! Why not keep it simple, and simply require that everything be recorded within three-months of execution for it to be enforceable against non-parties?
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Non-specialists may be surprised to learn that the answers to these basis questions in many instances remain indeterminate. Susan L. Glovsky provides an excellent post on PatentlyO on the subject: The time has come to enact national legislation that provides clear record title to patent applications and patents. The value... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
From Michael McConnell: But here is the irony. All this high‐toned government, the unelected and long‐termed Governors of the Federal Reserve, supported by Senators and Representatives serving for decades these establishment figures are the ones who have created the current mess. They did nothing to curb budget deficits or to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2012 at Broken Symmetry
How much would you pay to play a game in which a coin was flipped, and each time it landed heads the payout was doubled from a starting value of $1? The expected value of this game is not finite, and yet most people are not willing to pay more... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2011 at Broken Symmetry
Steve was a Bob Dylan fan. In his memory: Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2011 at Broken Symmetry