Sort method patents and standard

From: Alain LaBont/e'/ (
Date: Sun Apr 21 1996 - 11:56:56 EDT

At 14:45 1996-4-11 -0400, Hart, Edwin F. wrote on ISO10646 mail reflector:
>Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 12:55:21 -0400
>From: Tony Harminc <>
>Subject: IBM Character names and other newbie questions
>3) IBM appears to have US and European patents on some searching and
>sorting algorithms for Culturally Correct results. Is the world actually
>licensing these, or doing it some other way, or what ?

in fact for this sorting/searching feature, I have seen one US patent of IBM
and it has been embarrassing for some IBM people as my name is not mentioned
but I am the inventor of what they claim... they acknowledged it (they could
not do otherwise because I had a copyright on that; however because the
patents laws are not the same in Canada and in the USA, a patent could not
be obtained in Canada [once you have talked about it, it's finished here,
while in the United States you have 1 year to get your patent even after you
made the idea public]) and told me they patented the thing to avoid another
company doing it and charging them royalties (this already happened to them,
apparently, as one company patented something that had come out of IBM
research labs!)...

They also told me their intent was to give free access to that patent to
anybody... they did it for their own protection only...

If it is the case, then fine, I agree that this work be in the public
domain, and that is what my copyright said as early as 1986 (final version
of my method in 1988, followed by a reduction technique in 1989)...

I also know for sure that a patent was registered by Kulinek and Lee
(although I have not seen the actual patent), from Bell Northern Research,
around 1988 also (they did their work in parallel with me, we had not met
nor were we mutually aware of our respective works then; around 1988 we
began to work in common on a Canadian standard about the issue); the
Kulinek-Lee method is bi-level and therefore is less rich than my method (a
4-level method), and it is not fully predictable (which is one of the
innovations of my method, the others being mainly the sort on *positions and
weights* for special characters, the forward/backward scanning of a given
level [both of which gave lieu to the POSIX model and specification syntax
on collation in LOCALEs and cast in ISO/IEC 9945-2], and the reduction
technique I later developed too).

Alain LaBonti

Editor of CAN/CSA Z243.4.1 Canadian Sort standard for English and French

Editor of ISO/IEC 14651 on International Ordering of the UCS repertoire
(and on API on character string comparison, in fact the base of the standard)

[this document will be sent for CD ballot at or before June 1st and the CD,
as per new ISO directives, will be available at large freely... I finished
the English and French versions, waiting for some comments of SC22/WG20
members before releasing it; I will try not to forget to announce its

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