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Synonyms: Morton Code, Morton Curve, Z-Order Curve, invented 1966 by G. M. Morton according to wiki. Not to be confused with Hilbert Curves which is closely related and have similar name.

I was wondering if mentioned algorithm is patented. More generally, is there any place one can browse patented algorithms? I am quite new to all this legal stuff and I am keen to know more.

The real question I have, I guess, is: Can I make money off a library that provides Morton Coding, legally?

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You can try searching for the patent here: google.com/patents –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '11 at 1:29
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@Robert - It's very difficult to search for patents on algorithms. 'Math you can't use' is typically shrouded in far reaching ambiguity. But I agree, Google is a good start. Just be ready with a steady stream of coffee and comfortable reading glasses. –  Tim Post Mar 12 '11 at 1:41
    
Well, for me this feels ridiculous. Searching is hard, and all I've yet found is a patent using Hilbert Curves in Databases. Does that mean one can't use Hilbert Curves, or does it mean one can't use Hilbert Curves in conjunction with databases? :) I guess I really need a lawyer to be sure. I have a feeling I'll need to keep searching until I find it to be sure, and if I can't find it (if it doesn't exist) I can never be sure! –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 1:48
    
You can read patents from a wide reach at the European patent office (includes USA and many other countries. ep.espacenet.com) When it comes to patents, its the CLAIMS that matter. All the rest explains the invention and the context. –  quickly_now Mar 12 '11 at 6:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Patents last 20 years at the most in the United States, so you're probably safe here.

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Can one read "invented 1966" as "patented 1966"? –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 2:22
    
@Statement, in general, yes. Especially in this case where it's really "invented 1966, patented before 1991." Also a patented algorithm is generally not going to be published anywhere but the patent itself, and if it is, the fact that it's still under patent is very likely to be prominently mentioned. Gif is a good example of that, which went out of patent a few years ago, but the controversy over its patent is still mentioned. If you're really that worried about it, though, you need to consult a patent lawyer. –  Karl Bielefeldt Mar 12 '11 at 2:42
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Thanks. I am right now just trying to grasp the overall picture. Of course I won't assume any advice posted here as actual legal advice. At least I got some things clear. Patents are hard. Legal topics are hard. Patents are written in a funny language. I need professional help :) –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 2:50
    
You do. It will cost you -patent attorneys are not cheap. On a patent, the duration is usually 17 or 20 years (depends on country), from the PRIORITY DATE. Sometimes you can find this from the date on the patent, sometimes not. After the event, "invented in 19xx" does not mean patented then. You can invent something and keep it secret and patent later. This is a common strategy so be careful. –  quickly_now Mar 12 '11 at 6:17
    
Well, my main problem is that I can't find a patent I am concerned might exist. It may or may not exist, I won't find out until I get some help with that since I might be searching forever on my own. Since I can't find it, I can't know for sure when it was issued a 'PRIORITY DATE', but I guess they would had patented it before 1991 in any case. –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 13:01

Be careful. There is a recent patent on data indexing using the Hilbert curve (US 7321890), and this patents lists several other recent patents. Btw, the Hilbert curve was first described in 1891.

That said, your profile says you live in Sweden, so you are probably safe, because software patents are generally not enforceable in Europe.

IANAL yada yada yada

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I also read you should be careful selling products to the country where the patent is issued. –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 13:14
    
Of course I won't assume any advice posted here as actual legal advice. I am just grateful for the information I can get to draw my picture about how stuff works before contacting any attorney. –  Statement Mar 12 '11 at 13:20

There is a danger of browsing software patents. In the US and other countries which permit them, if you're sued and it can be shown that you browsed the patent, they can get you for willful infringement, which is worse than infringement, and attach 3x the penalty which would otherwise be assigned.

Some patent suites that offer you (unasked for) results from your Google searches record the IP address and page view of everyone who visits them. They then offer this information to IP holders for a fee. The idea is IP holders will pay to see if the entity they are suing or anyone coming from their company's domain viewed the patent.

Don't click on patent site links. It would be better to report it as spam unless you were actively looking for a patent.

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Do you have any reference material so one can read further about this? –  Statement Mar 15 '11 at 17:30

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