Saturday, October 06, 2007

Evolutionary approach to design around patents?

The Oct. 3 Economist notes:

Perhaps the most cunning use of an evolutionary algorithm, though, is by Dr John Koza himself. His team at Stanford developed a Wi-Fi antenna for a client who did not want to pay a patent-licence fee to Cisco Systems. The team fed the algorithm as much data as they could from the Cisco patent and told the software to design around it. It succeeded in doing so. The result is a design that does not infringe Cisco’s patent—and is more efficient to boot. A century and a half after Darwin suggested natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, engineers have proved him right once again.

The Economist also stated:

The result is that the range of applications to which the principles of evolutionary design are being applied is growing fast. Among those revealed at the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference held in London this summer were long-life USB memory sticks, superfast racing-yacht keels, ultra-high-bandwidth optical fibres, high performance Wi-Fi antennae (evolved to avoid patent fees), cochlear implants that can optimise themselves to individual patients and a cancer-biopsy analyser that was evolved to match a human pathologist’s tumour-spotting skills.

The NewScientist reported:

Not content with aiming for top results however, another group of researchers is using EAs to produce designs that dodge patents on rival inventions. Koza took a 1-metre-tall, Wi-Fi antenna made by Cisco and attempted to create another that did a better job without infringing Cisco's patent. He used an EA that bred antennas by comparing offspring with how the Cisco patent works and weeding out ones that worked similarly. "Our genetic program engineered around the existing patent and created a novel design that didn't infringe it," says Koza. Not only would this allow a company to save money on licensing fees, the new design was also itself patentable.

Both the Economist and the New Scientist NEGLECTED to mention that the evolutionary algorithm [EA] is itself patented by Koza in US 5,867,397, issued February 2, 1999, and titled Method and apparatus for automated design of complex structures using genetic programming.

The first claim is lengthy:

In a system having a population of entities of various sizes and shapes, wherein each entity comprises at least one constructing action, an iterative process for creating a design of a structure that satisfies prespecified design goals, said process comprising iterations of a series of steps, each iteration comprising the system-implemented steps of:

executing constructing actions in said entity to develop a structure comprising a plurality of types of components in a topological arrangement with at least one component value,

determining behavior of said developed structure,

choosing an operation that creates a new entity,

if said chosen operation is crossover,

selecting a group of at least two entities from said population, with the selection of at least one of said selected entities based on the degree to which said developed structure associated with said entity satisfies said prespecified design goals,

performing said chosen crossover operation,

if said chosen operation is reproduction,

selecting one entity from said population, with said selected entity based on the degree to which said developed structure associated with said entity satisfies said prespecified design goals,

performing said chosen reproduction operation, said reproduction operation retaining said selected entity unchanged in said population, and

adding said entity created by said chosen operation to said population.

To date, the '397 patent is cited by 40 issued US patents, including US 7,072,814, titled Evolutionary technique for automated synthesis of electronic circuits. A patent assigned to Synopsys (US 6,578,176, titled Method and system for genetic algorithm based power optimization for integrated circuit designs) cites the '397 patent.

Koza holds US 7,117,186 titled Method and apparatus for automatic synthesis of controllers the first claim of which states:

A system-implemented interactive process for creating the at least one controller that satisfies prespecified design goals, the at least one controller for controlling a plant by producing at least one control signal to control plant operation, the iterative process invoking iterations, each of which comprises: ascertaining the degree to which each controller programmatic entity in the population of controller programmatic entities satisfies the prespecified design goals; selecting from among the population of controller programmatic entities, wherein a controller specified by one controller programmatic entity that satisfies the prespecified design goals to a greater degree than another controller specified by another programmatic entity is more likely to be preferred, wherein the prespecified design goals are partially based on a rise time; and creating at least one candidate controller programmatic entity by applying an operation to modify at least one of the selected controller programmatic entities.

Koza is also the inventor/assignee of US 6,964,608, titled Skill Games, the first claim of which states: A method comprising: establishing communication between a player of a skill game offering prizes and played for consideration and an operator of the skill game using network communications; identifying geographic locations of at least one server or Internet service provider (ISP) through which the player communicates to the operator of the skill game; determining whether the player is eligible, by virtue of location, and age, to play the skill game, wherein the eligibility of the player is determined, over the network communications, based in part on whether a jurisdiction associated with player's location allows the skill game to be played legally using the geographic location information of the server or ISP; preventing the player from playing the skill game if the player is not eligible; and providing the player with the skill game using network communications, where the skills game includes a query to the player and a visual image that is integral to the query itself.


Blogger Unknown said...

The real issue is whether evolutionary design offers a straight forward way to invent around patents. Whether you have to license the method from Koza (you probably would since he's the expert) it would simply be a cost of doing business versus the reward of avoiding license fees

7:40 AM  

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