Tax code patents

Jerome J. Schmitt
As an inventor with a few patents to my name, I wrestle with chemistry and physics in attempts to improve on industrial processes and measurement techniques. I hope these will be commercially profitable and redound in a small way to the benefit of mankind. That is the legal premise of patent law: inventors are incentivized by the patent's grant of a 20-year monopoly on commercial exploitation of the invention in exchange for disclosing the principles of the invention publicly.  In this manner the "teaching" of the invention eventually ends up in the public domain for the public good instead of being held indefinitely as trade secret. Patents make Western society dynamic, and Islamist extremists see destruction of the intellectual property system as a key battleground in the war of civilizations.

I was thus very surprised to hear this report http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/04/11/PM200704116.html that the US Patent & Trademark Office is granting, and US Courts are upholding, patents on methods to better exploit the tax code.

Patented methods must be novel, useful and non-obvious.   What public good is served by the "teaching" of tax-code patents? How does this novel teaching redound to the benefit of mankind?  Congress has made the tax code so convoluted that the courts have sanctioned patent claims stating that the optimal tax strategy is non-obvious and not already in the public domain.  Apparently even the IRS doesn't know. 

This represents ipso-facto evidence of the dire need for tax simplification and reform. 
As an inventor with a few patents to my name, I wrestle with chemistry and physics in attempts to improve on industrial processes and measurement techniques. I hope these will be commercially profitable and redound in a small way to the benefit of mankind. That is the legal premise of patent law: inventors are incentivized by the patent's grant of a 20-year monopoly on commercial exploitation of the invention in exchange for disclosing the principles of the invention publicly.  In this manner the "teaching" of the invention eventually ends up in the public domain for the public good instead of being held indefinitely as trade secret. Patents make Western society dynamic, and Islamist extremists see destruction of the intellectual property system as a key battleground in the war of civilizations.

I was thus very surprised to hear this report http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/04/11/PM200704116.html that the US Patent & Trademark Office is granting, and US Courts are upholding, patents on methods to better exploit the tax code.

Patented methods must be novel, useful and non-obvious.   What public good is served by the "teaching" of tax-code patents? How does this novel teaching redound to the benefit of mankind?  Congress has made the tax code so convoluted that the courts have sanctioned patent claims stating that the optimal tax strategy is non-obvious and not already in the public domain.  Apparently even the IRS doesn't know. 

This represents ipso-facto evidence of the dire need for tax simplification and reform.