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Thinking in Scheme and Checking a Patent Claim: A Cross-disciplinary Application of Scheme-based Reasoning

August 24, 2009

(This content of this post is based on the content of my post [1] entitled “Re: [semi-OT] possible benefits from training in Scheme programming in patent translation” on the USENET newsgroup comp.lang.scheme.)

As a follow-up to my previous post, “How Scheme Can Train the Mind: One Reason that MIT Should Reinstate Scheme and 6.001,” here is an example of an application of the Scheme-style pattern of thinking applied to checking a pattern claim.

Most readers of this blog do not read Japanese; therefore, this example assumes that another translator has already translated a patent claim from Japanese to English, and that I need to check the translation for accuracy. In order to do so, I need to break down the claim into its semantic components and determine whether the semantics of the translation and the original are equivalent. Here is a contrived example, assuming that somebody has developed an in vitro, as opposed to in vivo, remote control device and receptor that can be optionally mounted on the ear (similarly to the ear-mounted transmitter/receivers worn by Agents in the motion picture saga The Matrix) and used as a controller for a video gaming device; please note that since I am not actually writing a Scheme program, but only using thought patterns derived from writing S-expressions in Scheme programs, this is merely pseudo-Scheme, not actual Scheme:

What is claimed is:

1. An in vitro remote-control device, the device comprising:
        a mounting unit for mounting the remote-control device on a portion of the head of a user; 
        a transmitter unit, further comprising:
             a neurotransmitter unit transmitting neural impulses to a brain of the user; 
             a neuro-digital conversion unit converting neural impulses to digital signals; 
	a receiver unit, further comprising:
             a neuroreceptor unit receiving neural impulses from the brain;
             a digital-neuro conversion unit converting digital signals to neural impulses; and 
        a power source unit converting thermal radiation from brain cells into electricity, the electricity powering the remote-control device;
        the transmitter unit transmits digital signals in response to neural impulses; and
        the receiver unit transmits neural impulses in response to digital signals.

The above-mentioned claim translates roughly into my personal variety of pseudo-Scheme as follows (apologies for any deviations from the syntax or semantics of actual Scheme):

(claim-define (_in-vitro_-remote-control-device mounting-unit transmitter-unit receiver-unit power-source-unit)
                (lambda (head user)
                  (mount head user)))
                (lambda (neurotransmitter-unit neuro-digital-conversion-unit)
                  (claim-define (neutrotransmitter-unit neural-impulses brain)
                                (transmit neural-impulses brain user))
                  (claim-define (neuro-digital-conversion-unit neural-impulses digital-signals)
                                (convert (neural-impulses digital-signals))))
                 (lambda (neuroreceptor-unit digital-neuro-conversion-unit)
                   (claim-define (neuroreceptor-unit neural-impulses brain)
                                 (receive neural-impulses brain))
                   (claim-define (digital-neuro-conversion-unit)
                                 (convert digital-signals neural-impulses))))
                 (lambda (thermal-radiation brain-cells electricity)
                   (power-convert thermal-radiation electricity brain-cells)))))
                  (lambda (digital-signals neural-impulses)
                    (transmit digital-signals neural-impulses)))
                  (lambda (neural-impulses digital-signals)
                    (transmit neural-impulses digital-signals)))))

This pattern of thinking can greatly simplify verifying equivalence between an English translation of a claim having a complex structure and the original Japanese claim.

[1] Russell, Benjamin L. “Re: [semi-OT] possible benefits from training in Scheme programming in patent translation.” Online posting. 20 Aug. 2009. 24 Aug. 2009. <news://comp.lang.scheme>. Also available at <>.

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