[cryptography] algorithmic patents, was Re: NSA's position in the dominance stakes

James A. Donald jamesd at echeque.com
Thu Nov 18 22:49:04 EST 2010

On 2010-11-19 12:17 PM, travis+ml-rbcryptography at subspacefield.org wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 06:05:56PM -0600, Marsh Ray wrote:
>> Note that none of this has anything whatsoever to do with "promoting the
>> progress of science and the useful arts".
>> But what's really sad is that this baloney has affected my ability to
>> sit down and write a computer program that basically does pure math and
>> give the resulting system away or use it to produce value.
> 1) I don't want to have to become a patent lawyer to be a programmer.
>     (IANAPL)
> 2) Since IANAPL, reading a patent can only hurt me, since by reading
>     it I could be found to willfully infringe, and none of my opinions
>     about whether I'm not infringing count.  Or so I've heard.
> 3) This vaguely reminds me of a private sector implementation of key
>     escrow and export control laws.
>     "If cryptography is outlawed, on5dfjd($T#+$J$IURI#QUXuif;rEr3n#"
> 4) I wonder if the system could somehow be used against itself.
>     The GPL has an interesting "viral" property; you play by its rules,
>     you get to take advantage of the ecosystem.  Otherwise you can't.
>     (legally, anyway - in practice nobody seems to sue over it)
>     I wonder if you could do something similar with patents.

Something similar *is* done with patents:  GPLv3

esr however argues that this does not work.

Of course, the reason it does not work is that patents do not work.  It 
is impossible to draw a line around an idea.  One can easily argue that 
any patent covers anything, and that one can patent anything, including 
what other people have been doing for years, and with equal facility, 
one can argue that no patent covers anything, that some minute change 
escapes from patent coverage, or some detail of implementation requires 
an additional patent.  The patent system has never worked.  People have 
always patented trivial and well known techniques, and have had 
considerably more success in enforcing blatantly invalid patents then 
clearly valid patents - because judges, juries and the patent office are 
unlikely to comprehend valid patents.

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