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US Patent No. 5,305,423 has been awarded to a speech- generation system that emphasizes words in italics or capital letters. [NYT, 4/18/94. EDUPAGE.] (I'm not sure if it covers other forms of prosody or emphasis.)

Patents don't seem to have hurt electronic R&D. Modem designer Earl Gibson has 24 patents, and is now working on the near-optimal V.Fast (or V.34) single-carrier modem standard with automatic frequency and rate selection, four-dimensional trellis coding, adaptive precoding, non-linear encoding, and shell mapping of eight symbols concurrently. CMOS designer Mark Holler has 18 patents (and only 25 published papers, some jointly authored). He's working on chips for neural network recognition of hand printing. [IEEE Grid, 5/94.] (It's one way to build toward retirement. More importantly, patents allow incremental techniques developed within commercial projects to be advertised and sold on their own. That has not generally happened with commercial software development.)

Greg Aharonian is trying to characterize (or ridicule?) a patent for displaying "knowledge" as an on-screen flowchart; representing the flowchart in the input language of a computer inferencing system; and thus, taking the two steps together, creating a rule base or "knowledge base." He's looking for gut estimates of when each of these three ideas ceased to be novel or unobvious. Send guesses to [,, 4/25/94. David Joslin.] (Aharonian runs Internet Patent News Service. For prior-art search services, send a "prior" subject line to