Freesteel Blog » Nothing happened

Nothing happened

Friday, February 24th, 2006 at 12:19 pm Written by:

This morning I received a document chiselled on a clay tablet and delivered by passenger pigeon. Actually, it was a letter from Mary Ann Brozowski, General Counsel of Surfware Inc. and sent by DHL rather than by email or through the regular postal service who’s deliverers actually know where I live — not at the other end of the Cathedral.

It says nothing useful, contains no email address, and reads:

“As you are undoubtedly aware from Surfware’s publications and promotions in the industry, including its web site, Surfaceware’s SURFCAM product includes patented technology for automating the rough machining process, which Surfware calls “Step Reduction Milling” or “SRM”. The SRM process, as well as machines employing the process and articles of manufacture for generating commands or creating three dimensional images in accordance with the process, are all covered by US Patent Number 6704611B1… which is assigned to Surfware.

“A Patent application was also filed with the European Patent Office…”

She then included a copy of Patent Number 6704611, 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). Secondly, she seems to be informing me about a software patent, since it’s supposed to cover something which makes 3D images, and Europe hasn’t knuckled under this very bad American idea so far. And thirdly, I’m baffled at the number of versions of this trivial idea I’ve seen patented under this name. The webpage I have read this material from is: WO03019454 or EP1419474 (A1). The whole archiving and numbering system for patents is so terminally screwed it must be deliberate.

I don’t know what a General Counsel for Surfware Inc does, but they probably have a lot of time to get up to mischief. I’ve no idea of their plans, if any. But a well-paid and hard working profession who endeavour to make things more obscure the harder they work, and believe that by depositing some smudged pictures about an idea that’s equivalent to sticking those extra steps between the rows in a lecture theatre with the Californian State Government, they can steal someone else’s work which they don’t understand.

Anyways, even if it was sound — which it isn’t — it doesn’t apply. We don’t create a first set of Z-levels and then “determine a second set of Z coordinates for machining a second set of Z level planar slices with the first tool”. That’s the naive first draft method, and it lasted a couple of months in the early versions of the code. What we actually do is find a set of Z-levels at the most optimal spacing and positions (just above flat areas, for example), and then batch them into groups up to the depth of the fluke of the tool. Nothing similar to SRM, although it might look the same to a lawyer with too much time on their hands. You never know what they are thinking. Or what they are reading…

Hi there Ms. Brozowski. If you have got this far with using the web, why not drop a comment onto the blog and start a conversation? Who knows, I may say something that you can take out of context and use against me.

Meanwhile, I had promised myself to read more of Groklaw at some point.

Mary Ann Brozowski is also on the Board of Directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel Southern California Chapter, in whose newsletter I read this stunning advice on page 4:

“Many business are operating in or moving to a so-called “paperless” environment, such that all the information and records concerning a business are stored in some electronic format. If a natural disaster [like a hurricaine] results in the total loss of electronic data, the cost of trying to recreate that information can be quite significant. Thus, businesses who indeed rely primarily on electronic data should look into the possibility of purchasing [insurance] coverage against such a loss.”

Nope… No mention of electronic backups to a warehouse in Timbuktu and many other out of the way places. So-called electronic data is, to a corporate lawyer, less robust than paper. Maybe that’s because it can’t be shredded so easily. You’ll find a good deal of whinging about the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act” in the corporate legal press. No mention that this Arthur Andersen incident was what precipitated it. They don’t want you to remember that. They want the good old days back.


  • 1. Neel replies at 27th February 2006, 11:48 am :

    The patent states
    “The present invention is thus not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention. ”

    I wonder who owns the patent for Z slicing, is “Step Reduction Milling” not a modification of Z Slicing algorithm.

  • 2. Julian Todd replies at 28th February 2006, 5:46 pm :

    If they do, they’re not telling anyone. And anyway it’s invalid since it’s software, and it’s prior art, and I coded a version in 1993, and many people coded it before then. But that doesn’t stop such nonsense on stilts, like when British Telecom attempted to play silly buggers and claim the patent on hyperlinks,1283,37095,00.html

    If we do get gratuitous grief from some corporation with lawyers who wants to convert their cash into the theft of our work — rather than buying it properly — I hope we can count on your support.

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