How can I commercially profit from the discovery of new algorithms?


About the Algorithm:I've invented a brand new method for sorting data in a very fasts way which is faster than QuickSort itself. This algorithm can be used for huge data manipulation which is very suitable for companies like Oracle, IBM, Google, or Microsoft.

My question: How can I commercially profit from the discovery and research of this algorithm? Can I protect this research in any way to also protect the plan to monetize it?

Note that, I've already copyright it for some IP protection.

Thanks in advance for your help.


asked Feb 4 '12 at 03:55
Nabil Abdulaal
29 points
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  • You can't copyright an algorithm, so your claim to have done so brings the rest of your assertions into question, to say the least. Copyright only applies to specific expressions of ideas, not to the ideas themselves, so you can copyright your own source code to implement the algorithm, but anyone else can re-implement it in their own code. You *might* be able to patent it in a jurisdiction that allows software patents, with a good (and expensive) patent lawyer. – Mike Scott 12 years ago
  • Apart from the comment above on copyrighting an algorithm (you can't - only copyright one implementation of the code) I want to add that you can't even patent it. Pure algorithms/ideas can't be patented, only the actual engineering systems that embody the algorithm can be. If you're looking to profit, you will need to make a product out of the algorithm -> patent/copyright that -> sell the product. Algorithm will remain a 'trade secret'. Other route is publish it and become famous. – Sid 12 years ago
  • I think the question is valid, maybe it should've been asked different: "How to make sellable my new sorting algorithm?". I would have preferred to edit it instead of closing. – Nestor Sanchez A 12 years ago
  • I've flagged for this to be reopened and also submitted an 'edit' version to clarify the English in the question – Sid 12 years ago
  • Sorting algorithms have been a staple of CS research since (computer) time began so if you've created something that is truly so much better that whatever is already out there then you're a genius. Or deluded. – Ryan 12 years ago
  • Can you really do better than O(nlogn)??? Then 'publish' your idea in a journal/paper! Keep the implementation proprietary if you wish!!! – Ph D 12 years ago
  • You are not famous right now, and P!=NP still an unsolved problem. This means your algorithm never worked? – Felipe Tanus 9 years ago

7 Answers


It is not true that you can not patent your algorithm.

There are specific legal tricks that turns a pure algorithm into a patentable system in the US. The answer to your question is to talk to a patent lawyer who understands this.

answered Feb 5 '12 at 06:56
228 points


You need to write a product around it. Look at google: they have secret algorithms too. They cannot have a patent on this (or at least not in the EU). But they can protect a product. So the algorithm is a secret and the product is what they sell.

Another option is to write a book/white paper about it and become famous.

answered Feb 4 '12 at 04:07
3,590 points


You must realize that when you make such an extravagant claim, people will not believe you.

Your first step should be to talk to a recognized expert in the field of your invention. If you can convince one expert that you are for real, then doors will open. It's called social proof.

Some inventions are really hard to monetize. Einstein didn't exactly get rich from discovering relativity.

In your case, you may want to think about who would benefit from your algorithm, and license it to them. This way, the algorithm would remain secret, and only select companies would pay you lots of money for the code. You'd protect your IP as a trade secret, not a patent or copyright.

answered Feb 5 '12 at 06:17
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points


Yes, you can patent your Sorting Algorithm. See this patent as an example.. Do you know about the Provisional Patent Application? It only costs $125 and was designed by Congress to give individual inventors a chance at bringing their inventive ideas to market easily. It is super easy to do.

answered Feb 7 '12 at 15:25
Provisional Patent Video Cours
11 points


Intellectual Ventures buys patents, so if you can patent an implementation of it... Of course, there's no guarantee they won't just give the algorithm to Microsoft under the covers before any deal is made on paper.

Not a fan of IV, as you can see. You could make it open source. OR... Build a startup around it, since this site is about startups.

answered Feb 4 '12 at 04:08
Henry The Hengineer
4,316 points


You cannot patent an equation, but an algorithm it's something else. There are ways this can be done, including Europe. I know because I've been to patent offices in Europe.

You should patent it first. If you have the money, worldwide. Then you could: (a) build an application that uses the algorithm and sell the software, or (b) go to big companies and show them your software or patented algorithm and see if they are interested in buying.

Making a software could also include making an API and give access to it in SaaS plataform. Just thinking out loud.

Best of lucks.

answered Feb 5 '12 at 07:58
117 points


You can copyright the implementation of an algorithm, I.e. the code base . You can patent the solution to problem that is industrially applicable and includes an invention step. As such an algorithm may be patented under very strict terms, I.e. it is not a variation or an improvement of an already existing algorithm. This is very difficult to justify. You cannot patent or copyright an equation or a mathematical solution to a problem, because an equation by itself is not industrially applicable. Beware, that patents are granted by patent offices residing in different countries. However, a patent is an archive that you have reported the solution to a problem. Enforcing patent claims is a different story, and a patent being accepted in one country does really verify it's validity in another. In fact patent claims are enforced in each different country where there is an infringement. My advise, make it public, be famous, or keep it a secret.

answered Apr 1 '12 at 09:28
121 points

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