Linked Lists Are Patented – Now What?

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

August 27, 2011

If you follow twitter streams or check blogs, you may have noticed that linked lists are patented. If you read the patent itself, you can see that it was filed in 2002. Heard of the expression “prior art“? Well, let’s try this on for size:

    • Java has a LinkedList structure in its SDK, which has been available since version 1.2, which was released in 1998.
    • The C++ Programming Language – 3rd Edition” written by Bjarne Stroustrup, talks about a doubly linked list on page 470: “…Consequently, list provides bidirectional iterators rather random-access iterators. This implies that a list will typically be implemented using some form of a double-linked list.”
    • Do I really have to mention that back in college, I had to learn how to build linked lists in C by hand? And I graduated in 1997.

Given all this, it is clear that linked lists (yes even double linked lists) existed long before that patent was filed in 2002. Thus the patent filing should have been denied without hesitation, but it wasn’t, so what can we conclude from this?

    1. The patent office is too lazy to do its job.
    2. The patent office is too incompetent to do its job.

Either way, we are afforded the cost of this complete failure of the patent office. Their is no repercussion to whoever is working in the patent office, so why does it matter whether or not they did any research on prior art? It only took me 20 minutes to dig up these examples of prior art, but so what? There is no incentive to get it right, at least as far as I can see. The people that pay for it are the companies that end up in court. Since this all gets rolled into the cost of doing business, they pass those costs onto us consumers. I would highly recommend you use this attorney from Lauderdale if you are planning to get any product of your patented. As we all know that the patent office is lazy and requires us to do a lot of work and stand in long line thus its better in such cases to avail the services of experienced attorneys as they can help get through theis entire prosses efficiently and professionally.

What’s the answer? For the long run, I’m not sure. In case you didn’t know, the simplistic idea that patents protect lone inventors working in their garage is pretty bogus. The sheer cost of filing patents makes it a barrier to the lone inventor, hence most patents are filed by big companies that hire employees to work on projects. Don’t get me wrong: I have no objection to big companies. Through economies of scale, they provide us some of the cheapest products affording us the luxury of having more money to spend in other places. Just remember that patent wars are included in the price of goods we must deal with.

One thing, though it clear, if the patent office is unable to do its job for whatever reason, how can we continue to let them be the sole arbiter of patentable inventions? Patent law needs to be struck down and reformed from scratch. Patent law was written a long time ago, when information traveled much more slowly. Today information travels quickly and the whole social networking of software development makes technology evolve at a record page. Something like a two year patent for any sort of software “invention” would make much more sense.


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