In this chapter, we discuss the issues on patent and trade secret issues on digital libraries, especially patentable parameter-setting components which are implemented as computer-related inventions in digital libraries. In addition, we discuss the directions for embedding and protecting numerical parametric information as a trade secret in the patentable parameter-setting components performing retrieval operations of digital libraries with the future of intellectual property protection in the multimedia digital libraries. The scope of this chapter is restricted within the current standard of the U.S. laws and cases in transnational transaction and licensing of intellectual properties regarding the digital library.
In this section, we discuss two issues on the intellectual property protection regarding digital libraries. The first issue is the patent protection of the retrieval mechanisms of digital library systems. The second issue is the trade secret on the numerical parametric values for retrieval operations in the parameter-setting components.
Patentable Parameter-Setting Components
The U.S. Patent Act (2005) defines that a data-processing process or method is patentable subject matter in the form of a computer-related invention (i.e., a computer program). The computer program is patentable as far as the “specific machine […] produce[s] a useful, concrete, and tangible result […] for transforming […] physical data [“physical transformation”] (In re Alappat, 1994).
The computer-related inventions often combine means for data-processing, some of which are prior disclosed inventions. Computer-related invention consists of a number of “processes” (i.e., methods or means for data processing in the form of combination of computer programs). In visual digital libraries, for example, a certain set of programs focuses on image processing, while another set of programs operates text mining. Meanwhile, in the same example, the processes in a data-processing mechanism comprise means or components for parameter-setting which is adjusted to process specific kinds of image retrieval operations (e.g., sorting proper images in certain object domains).
The problem of which process is to realize technical advancement (nonobviousness) on its combination of the prior arts, and is to be specific/enabling on its parameter-setting. These two issues are emerging problems in the advent of sophisticated data analysis technique, especially in the area of visual information retrieval in digital libraries. Uniform frameworks for protecting patentable inventions on the novel combination, and the specific parameter-setting must be formulated in engineering manner, respectively.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Multimedia Digital Library: A system which consists of multimedia digital contents indexed and stored in databases for appropriate retrieval operations and the retrieval mechanisms which are optimized and applied to object domains of those databases.
Combination of Processes: A patentable computer program or programs as a number of “processes”; in other words, methods or means for data processing, some of which are prior disclosed inventions.
Digital Library: A system as an infrastructure for global information, which consists of digital contents in databases and retrieval mechanisms.
Trade Secret on Parameter-Setting: A legal framework to keep secret the range of parametric values in practice, rather than just patenting parameter-setting components.
Parameter-Setting: A patentable computer program or programs which realize thresholding operations with a set of ranges of parametric values.
Multimedia Digital Contents: Data entities which are stored in multimedia digital libraries in a variety of forms of text, images, photos or video streams, which often commingle therein.
Patentable Computer Program: A computer-related invention in the form of a data-processing process or method to produce a useful, concrete, and tangible result for transforming physical data.