Ars Technica has a story about how Microsoft tried to patent clustering phylogenetic methods. If the patent would have gone through, it could have meant that anyone who wanted to use a phylogenetics clustering program (PAUP, Mesquite, etc) would have suddenly found themselves unable to do so, at least not without paying Microsoft first the associated fees for licensing their patent (or else by pirating the software, which seems to be a common theme in cash strapped labs). Luckily, there is plenty of prior art (meaning, Microsoft was obviously not the first person to do it), so they won’t be granted the patent in the end. Something like this makes an (arguably) good case for scientists to release any code and programs they produce under an Open Source license, which in effect would preserve their work in the public domain for future scientists to use.
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