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Jerome Lemelson, America's most prolific living inventor (with 500+ patents), is giving $10.4M to the Smithsonian to help bring young people into science and technology careers. The donation will establish a Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. [SJM, 6/1/95, 1E.]

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has forced the USPTO to allow patents of software as part of an article of manufacture (such as computer, a commercial product on magnetic media, or a patentable process). The court accepted data structures in memory -- independent of the data values -- as patentable, unlike the layout of a book. Also, adding new software to an existing computer could make the system patentable. The system must be useful, new, and non-obvious, of course. [Sabra Chartrand, NYT. SJM, 5/9/95, 1E.] (The PTO's new plan was to allow patents of instructions that cause a computer to perform specific functions, but not of software alone. I suspect that the interpretation has now changed.)

The US Patent Office is issuing new guidelines to broaden and simplify software patents. The PTO will focus on originality and innovation rather than software/hardware distinctions. Operational steps performed by a program are considered a patentable process, and computers can be the "means" for implementation. Patents will not cover machine-readable music, art, or literature, nor programs that manipulate only abstract concepts. [AP. SJM, 6/3/95, 2D.] (A program to solve a math problem would not be patentable, but an engineering design program using the same algorithm might be accepted.)

Experts predict that copyright will remain the primary protection for consumer software. [WSJ, 6/2/95, A3. EDUPAGE.]

Neural networks are the subject of over 1,400 patents from the USA, GB, Germany, France, Japan, Korea and 34 other issuing authorities -- 50 patents in 1989, 800 new ones in 1994. Derwent's Neural Networks Newsletter evaluates the most significant patents each month. Free samples of the first issue are available from Martin Hyndman , Derwent Information Ltd.; +44 171 344 2800, +44 171 344 2911 Fax. [Neuron Digest, 5/23/95.]