On Wed, Sep 06, 2000 at 08:33:45PM -0500, Steve Sheldon wrote:
> But did the University own the patent?  Was the patent filed for at the time
> these individals worked for the University?

> I don't know, but I would think if the University could prove that research
> which had been done there was the basis for this technology, they could
> certainly make that case in court.

I'm not 100% sure regarding the specifics, but I would guess that the
inventors (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman) were working for/at MIT at the time
they invented the cryptosystem.  It is clear that MIT owned the patent which
it licensed exclusively to RSA Labs founded by Rivest et al.

I have quite a bit of experience in research & patents, and I can tell you
that this is very common practice, particularly at established tech-transfer
universities like MIT, Stanfard, UCB, etc.  Faculty and research associates
are funded directly by the school or by external companies/agencies (like
NSF, NIH, DARPA) to research new technologies.  If patentable inventions
arise from the research, the university pays for the legal expenses to
get the patents.  If granted, the school, not the inventors, owns the patents.
However, there is usually an inventor's policy to reward the inventors should
the patents generate royalty streams.  To get those royalty streams, the
patents get licensed to companies that can create products around the ideas.
Quite often, those patents are licensed to startups founded by the inventors
of the technology, since they are the ones who best understand the ideas in
the first place.

> I still cannot figure out who thought it was a good idea to allow for the
> patent of mathematical algorithms or business processes.

Patents were designed to serve as catalyst and incentive for innovation.
A lot of economists agree that the current technology boom and business
opportunity in the US are directly related to the free flow of ideas and the
ability to capitalize (make money) on those ideas.  Unfortunately, current
Intellectual Property laws are behind the times, and the PTO is severely
understaffed, underqualified and underbudgeted to handle the volume of patent
applications.  It's a bloody mess.  One thing's for sure, as someone else
pointed out.  IP lawyers are rolling in some big dough.

Dave Ahn | ahn at vec.wfubmc.edu | Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Try to live your life
so that when you die, you will rejoice and the world will cry.  -1/2 jj^2