Freesteel Blog » Patent Schmatent

Patent Schmatent

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005 at 12:47 pm Written by:

patent of a computer

The World network of patent offices has finally seen fit to post up the US Software Patent Pending 20050256604 filed by Surfware on April 22, 2005, but finally published on November 17, 2005. And there’s also US Software Patent Pending 20050246052, filed March 2, 2005, and published November 3, 2005, which looks about the same. I can’t see the images on it because the US Patent Office website is shit — yes, shit — in that the scans of the documents only appear in Quicktime(tm) format, which is designed for motion pictures and doesn’t work in most browsers. They do not want people to actually see these patents, while at the same time being able to blame them for not having looked at them.

Luckily, the European Patent Office isn’t quite so superficially evil, and we can see the images at US2005256604, one page at a time. The document reports that it’s based on a provisional application filed on April 29, 2004 and kept secret (Martin made inquiries to the Patent office and got no information, whilst Surfware has been putting about the words “patent pending” on their website for over a year).

I suppose this means they think they can claim ownership on something 18 months before they actually told anyone what it was! And now I have ruined any chance of plausible deniability by looking at it. The consequences of knowing infringement are more severe than accidental infringement — at least since three weeks ago, two years into our work on a similar algorithm.

Never mind. It’s not meant to be fair, only to look fair through the eyes of the official narrative.

Luckily, we have two things in our favour. (a) Our algorithm is completely different, even though it solves the same problem — although when did that ever deter frivilous legal threats? Lawyers know how to create smoke that makes most people think there must be a fire. (b) The European Parliament overwhelmingly voted against authorizing Software Patents in the EU on 6 July 2005, which somewhat stemmed the tide.

One can but hope that this Surfware software patent is only a marketing exercise, playing on the public’s or investor’s gullibility that a software patent is worth something, rather than a mere waste of time that would have been better spent programming some more.

Still, the algorithm is nice, and I’ll have to read it up in this form, though it would have been pleasanter if it were written up as a sort of “Machining Gems” article designed to explain to people how it works, rather than as a lawyer-ready claim of property.

The inventors of the “Engagement milling” patent are listed as:

Glenn Coleman (Vice President of Surfware), Alan Diehl (CEO of Surfware), and Robert B. Patterson (from Bellevue, Washington) who might have actually come up with the idea and done the work, and is probably not this guy. Hello whoever you are. It would be nice to hear from a fellow soul in this field, rather than only from the capitalists whom we foolishly allow our work to be exclusively owned by as they profitably divide our profession into infinitesimal fragments when we should be working together like the Linux team do.

Remember: This is Business. It’s not progress.


  • 1. Francis Irving replies at 23rd November 2005, 4:06 pm :

    Super. I look forward to your description of what their algorithm does.

  • 2. Neel replies at 23rd January 2006, 6:29 am :

    Glenn Coleman – vice president of product design at Surfware describes Truemill algorithm.

    One of the difference in both the algorithms I guess is Truemill currently works only for support 2-1/2 axis milling only, though they are planning to integrate it into 3 axis and 5 axis.

    Adaptive Roughing works with 3d data any stl files…

  • 3. Julian Todd replies at 23rd January 2006, 10:37 am :

    That’s a pretty old article which I’ve read. It contains no information, as is common for these brochure-like publications of which there are many.

    The drawback with Truemill is it solves the problem geometrically rather than modelling where the metal is and responding to it. It’s like a canned cycle able to clear a range of predetermined areas efficiently, but which cannot be generalized.

    This will make applying it to rest material roughing inelegant at best. They can either do it by generating their standard clearing path and deleting the parts which are cutting air, or by taking the difference between two levels and clearing the thin ribbon of material as if it were an odd-shaped pocket of its own. Neither gives a good looking result.

  • 4. Neel replies at 23rd January 2006, 2:26 pm :

    Reading through some of the other articles it seems that Truemill is designed to maintain a constant tool engagement angle, but looking at Truemill toolpath it still seems to be consisting of lines and arcs. The tool’s engagement with the material increases when transitioning from cutting a straight line to cutting a concave arc. I cant understand how the constant tool engagement angle is possible . I guess to define a constant tool engagement angle a toolpath with some what spiral moment will be needed. Some what morphed toolpaths..

    So is Adaptive Roughing models the stock around the tool and cutter engagement is determined at current cutter location if the enagagement is large , another cutter location is computed stock & engagement determined for this position

  • 5. Neel replies at 24th January 2006, 5:30 am :

    So does adaptive roughing detect contact area of the tool with the stock to determine the engagement. And does algorithm consider different tool geometries ?

  • 6. Julian Todd replies at 24th January 2006, 3:55 pm :

    Yes to both. Would you like one of our crude demo versions where you will be can interactively see the area of the tool which is in contact with metal during cutter replay?

    I can’t find where Martin put the download page, but will email it to you when we have it up.

    If there’s any chance you can cut stuff with it we’d be glad to know.

  • 7. Neel replies at 25th January 2006, 7:22 am :

    I use different cam programs and have programmed for various parts from die/molds to impellor using 3 axis & 5 axis toolpaths. But I dont have my own machine.
    But I would certainly like to test the crude demo versions. Please let me know if I could help you debug the code or test any of the strategies that you have developed.I can run them through various simulators…

  • 8. Julian Todd replies at 25th January 2006, 10:04 am :

    We’ve put the demo+ instructions back into:

    Let us know what you think.

  • 9. Freesteel » Blog Ar&hellip replies at 24th February 2006, 12:21 pm :

    […] 611, which you can’t read on an ordinary browser. What could this mean? Firstly, the letters I sent to that company were about the Truemill Patent Application US2005246052 (A1). Secon […]

  • 10. Freesteel&hellip replies at 22nd August 2008, 9:38 pm :

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  • 11. Freesteel&hellip replies at 1st December 2008, 12:50 am :

    […] to my records, I’ve been all over this case since 2005, as well as the wider threat of software patents, even to the extent of determining that Vero […]

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