NASA to auction off software patents

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre is to auction off five software development patents in early November.

All five patents cover automated software development, which could result in lots of competition come auction day. Automating key stages of software development, such as the formal model, could save a lot of time and money for many companies.

The first patent, numbered 7,668,796 (links courtesy of ZDNet), was filed on February 23, 2010. It relates to automatic learning algorithms and processes, which can be used to create a CSP-based, syntax-orientated model.

The second patent, numbered 7,627,538, was filed on December 1, 2009. It covers swarm autonomic agents which have a self-destruct capability, which sounds far more like a secret NASA government project than it really is. 

This patent relates to generating a synthetic neural system and generating stay alive signals for it, with the ability to self-destruct if an unsatisfactory exchange is made. This could potentially be of some use in security software.

The third patent, numbered 7,752,608, was filed on July 6, 2010. It covers systems, methods and apparatus for verification of knowledge-based systems, which could have a fairly wide appeal in the software industry.

The fourth patent, numbered 7,739,671, was filed on June 15, 2010. It relates to systems, methods and apparatus for implementation of formal specifications derived from informal requirements, which is tied with the previous patent, but relates to translating the data into a high-level comput programming language rather than a knowledge-based system.

The fifth patent, numbered 7,543,274, was filed on June 2, 2009. It covers a system and method for deriving a process-based specification, which is mathematically inferred from a trace-based specification.

The date the patents were filed, from the second half of last year until the Summer of 2010 raises questions about why NASA is looking to sell these off so quickly after patenting the technology. A likely scenario is that the space agency is attempting to amass funds for its many projects, some of which have been threatened recently by cancellation and spending cuts.

The auction will be held on 11 November by auctioneer Ocean Tomo, with a $1 million threshold for sale of the patents, though obviously NASA will be keen to get a little more.