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Intellectual Property and Patent Searches

People at MIT have worked on many research projects which have eventually proven commercially useful. Every day, companies try to patent ideas they believe to be original, but sometimes people have already researched the ideas. Such research is prior art in the field, and render the ideas ineligible for patent protection. As a hypothetical example, there are many modern mathematical packages that include algebraic manipulation systems, so it would be useful to show prior art in the MACSYMA source code. Unfortunately, there are currently no convenient ways of looking for prior art in our backup tapes.