Stupid Patent of the Month: A Patent on Using Mathematical Proofs

In some fields, software bugs are more than the proverbial pain in the neck. When software has to ensure that an airplane lands safely, or that a pacemaker keeps operating, there’s no room for error. The idea that mathematical proofs could be used to prove that software is error-free has been around since the 1970s, and is known as “formal verification.” But like a lot of technologies that some visionaries saw coming, it took time to develop. In recent years, computing power has become cheap enough for formal verification to become practical for more software applications. Unfortunately, last month, the field had a monkey wrench thrown into it, in the form of U.S. Patent No. 10,109,010, which the patent office awarded to a U.K.-based company called Aesthetic Integration Ltd. Claim 1 of the patent describes creating mathematical “axioms”—formal mathematical statements—that describe a computerized trading forum. The patented method then…

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