How can one know if some of the content (e.g., an algorithm) presented by a paper is protected by a patent?

Papers rarely mentioned that a patent has been filed for it.

1 Answer 1


Patent law varies a lot by place, of course. But patents are specifically not secret information. Nothing in US law, I'm pretty certain, would prevent anyone from talking about a patent or its contents. You can't implement it, of course, without a license, but words are free.

Don't confuse patent with copyright. The latter protects words, the former protects inventions. You can't operationalize the algorithm in a software patent, but some representation of the algorithm is actually part of the patent.

For that reason, you aren't abetting the breaking of a law by writing about it. Anyone who reads the patent can see the descriptions.

However, if you are actually building things then you can run afoul of patent law since it isn't words, then. You are implementing the "invention" described in the patent. This is why patent lawyers earn more than you or I do.

Depending on your location, that may be different.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_infringement

  • Thanks, my main concern is implementing an algorithm presented in a paper, then becoming aware that the algorithm is patented. Jul 28, 2018 at 20:20
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    @FranckDernoncourt, the easy way to know is to contact the author. Cheaper than doing a formal patent search. I wouldn't ask the question directly, but rather write to the authors thanking them and noting that you intend to implement it. If there is a problem you will likely hear back quickly. But also work to send the idea of software patents to the lower reaches of some deep hell. If your work is on behalf of an employer, they may want deep protection and might need the patent search, actually.
    – Buffy
    Jul 28, 2018 at 20:24

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