Friday, March 28, 2008

Patenting Cubism, Art and Science

100th anniversary of invention of Cubism is upon us. First, Flicker Alley has just released a two-disc CD set for $29.95 titled "Discovering Cinema", which contains two French-made documentaries titled "Learning to Talk" and "Movies Dream in Color", which contain clips and full short films from the 1910/1920 time period, when people inventing the leap from silent black and white movies to color and sound, a classic problem in the history of technology evolution.
For some time, and more so in the future, many have argued that all of the arts, both methods and articles of manufacture, should be subject to the patent system, as scientists and engineers more and more apply their useful arts to the ... arts. While all artistic methods have been patentable for over 100 years (methods uncopyrightable under 17 USC 102b), it is only gradually that all artistic works are becoming patentable as the great tension between 35 USC 101's manufactures and 17 USC 102a's fixed expressions face the reality of the growing science and engineering of all forms of art. A death and an anniversary help illustrate this patenting evolution. The death is that of Lenore Tawney, who died last year in New York City at the age of 100. In 1959, the New York artist invents the genre of fiber art, by combining several techniques - plain weave, gauze weave, slit tapestry and open-warp weaving - to invent large, abstract, free-hanging sculptures from fibers. Ms. Tawney had earlier been trained as both a sculptor and a weaver, and her new genre united the worlds of arts and crafts, which had been mostly disjoint until then. A progress of the useful arts deserving of patent protection - if she had wanted to so patent - the inventor's choice. Obvious? 1959 seems a pretty late discovery date after centuries of sculpting and weaving for this to be obvious.
An important interplay of science and the arts is celebrated this year, the 100th anniversary of the invention of Cubism by Pablo Picasso, with his then infamous and now famous painting of five prostitutes, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, one of the classic paintings in the history of all of the arts for its role in fostering modern art. It was not until one year later in 1908, that the term "cubism" was invented, when art critic Louis Vauxcelles derisively described George Braque's 1908 painting "House at L'Ebstaque" as being composed of cubes. Early Cubists were inspired by current theoies of mathematics and physics, especially the relativity of Poincare-Lorentz-Einstein, as introduced to them by mathematician Maurice Princet. The 29 September 2007 edition of New Scientist has a nice article (page 50) on this inspiration, written by Arthur Miller, emeritus professor of the history and philosophy of science at University College London. Some years ago, an excellent thesis was written on this subject. Some quotes from the article: X-rays, discovered in 1895, bolstered Picasso's belief that what you see is not always what you get. He arrived at the same conclusion after seeing the work of primitive Iberian sculptors, who represented not what they saw but what they knew. Kind of like a good patent lawyer, who drafts patent claims not on how the inventor sees the invention as is, but how the lawyer see what the invention is. And frankly and sarcastically, some patent drawings are being allowed to be so sloppy as to be Cubist :-) The painting is laid out like a motion picture in five frames of increasing geomertization: from the Egyptian-Gauginesque figure on the left, through the middle figures (fusions of French conceptual art and primitive Iberian sculpture), to the strange angles of the figure on the right, ... Now the science. Picasso's notion of viewing an object from several perspectives at once also grew out of his fascination with four-dimensional geometry. Early in 1907, he was introduced to an insurance actuary called Maurice Princet who had a keen interest in mathematics. ... In June 1907, Princet visited Picasso's studio just when the artist had become stuck on how to proceed with Les Demoiselles. .... Princet showed Picasso a book by Esprit Jouffret about complex polyhedra in four dimensions. To illustrate his results, Jouffret had projected these objects onto the two-dimensional plane of the paper in order to show them from different perspectives in succession - like walking around an object. ... Picasso was particularly struck by [mathematician] Poincare's suggestion of how to represent an object in four dimensions by projecting a succession of primitives. With a nod to Jouffret's book (inspired in part by Poincare's popular book, "Science and Hypothesis"), Poincare wrote that geometers do this playfully all the time. Why not project multiple perspectives all at once, Picasso wondered? "Obvious to try" in light of Poincare's prior art comment - an interesting example for future KSR debates? (Let's hope the question never gets to the Supreme Court, who would butcher both the art and science.) How did Picasso proceed with his reasoning? It was while viewing an exhibition of African masks that Picasso a moment of illumination. What Princet had been trying to teach him about geometry suddenly made sense .. now he understood how to add multi-dimensional geometry to the mix. The result was the face of the squatter (middle right hand side of painting), a projection from the fourth dimension, in which front and profile views are seem simultaneously, her head swivelled 180 degrees. ... [the squatter] figure underwent the most extreme transformations in hundreds of preliminary sketches [experiments]. Cubism 101-patentable as a method? Why not? Technical? Why not? Picasso created an aesthically useful application of Poincare's science. Obvious? Probably not. After all, other artists could have read Poincare's book and thought about the artistic implications. And if the genus of Cubism is patentable, why not new styles of Cubism as species as they were invented in the years that followed by other artists? With regards to "manufactures", as such species patents use narrower and narrower independent/dependent claims, when does specific expression become patent-controllable? Sadly, on the 100th anniversary of this interaction between art and science, not only are these questions unanswered, but barely asked. A painting is a manufacture. Interestingly, another scientist/artist read and was inspired by Poincare's book (Science and Hypothesis), a scientist/artist who went on to invent great things with his avant-garde thinking in the era of other avant-garde thinkers being inspired by science. His name: Einstein. As the arts become more fully subsumed into the sciences, it ends a modern evolution that started with Da Vinci, continued through Picasso and many others, and finishes in the 21st century as scientists, engineers, neuroscientists, biologists, mathematicians and othes embed the arts into the progress of science. The Founding Fathers would rejoice that we are now making the phrase "science and useful arts" redundant, that we can drop either "useful arts" or "sciences" because they now cover the same thing - everything. And with such science of art, we can embed into consumer electronics tremendous art technology that allows the entire public to more fully express their inner art visions. A goal the Founding Fathers of America, and the Founding Fathers of modern art, would allow fully support. Imagine the artistic power of Disney in the hands of all people. Is patenting movies and music weakended in any way by Comiskey? No. All forms of art - "2D" (paintings, etc.) and "3D" (sculptures, etc.) are useful (101) articles of manufacture (101) made from compositions of matter (101) that can be described by clear, decision-free sequences of instructions for either hand or machine manufacturing. The only patentability problem then reduces to 112. Which is where all these arguments below - in the 112 realm of practical instruction, not the PTO-botched and court-botched metaphysics of 101. The following claims might be surprisingly acceptable: 1) A new biological cell. 2) The useful medical uses of the cell of claim 1. why not then 3) The useful entertainment uses of the cell of claim 1. Health and entertainment are two humongous useful methods and articles of manufacture industries. Why can't I claim applications of my new science (in this case, my new cell) in both industries, especially if entertainment uses result in more profit than the medical uses? You might ask how could a new biological cell be entertaining. Come to California. The first step to make completely redundant "sciences and useful arts" was suggested by Shakespeare - throw all of the copyright lawyers into the ocean, where they can finally realize the complete lie of 17 USC 102, as the idea of drowning merges with the expression of drowning. 17 USC 102 was, is and will always be scientific nonsense, a contempt of modern set theory, a statute completely at odds with the evolutions of the arts and sciences. With copyright lawyers gone (ok, don't kill, just throw them in jail for consumer fraud), the patent lawyers can help scientists more fully embrace the arts by bringing more and more art into the form of structured patent claims.