Friday, November 25, 2005

Laws of physics muck up a patent application

I learn from IPKat that there's a novel decision from the Patent appeal court, where the judge threw out an appeal against the dismissal of a patent application. He reckoned that it was reasonable for the patent examiner to hold that the proposed invention was not only obvious but it broke the laws of physics, or more specifically the law of conservation of energy (also widely known by engineers as the first law of thermodynamics).

So the invention was obvious despite the fact that it breached a fundamental law of nature, which presumably means that that fundamental law is not obvious? Being the scientific stick in the mud that I am, I'd say that is more of a reflection of the basic lack of scientific understanding rather than that the first law of thermodynamics is something less than obvious. Which in turn leads to the question of what actually is obvious? But that strays into the realm of philosophy which goes beyond the boundaries of my scientific, technical, commercial and legal training...

No that's not good enough. Even young children know you can't generate energy out of nothing, so if it is obvious to them why isn't it obvious to the legal system and society more generally? Just another example of our ability to believe in things which are simple, obvious and wrong, I guess.

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