[cryptography] NSA's position in the dominance stakes

James A. Donald jamesd at echeque.com
Fri Nov 19 13:10:19 EST 2010

 >> I notice that not only has the concept of ECC been
 >> patented, but so has data compression, and graphical
 >> hyperlinks.  Why should we worry about one patent more
 >> than the other?
 >> Does the fact that graphical hyperlinks are patented cause
 >> you to refrain from using them?

On 2010-11-19 2:39 PM, Jon Callas wrote:
 > The concept of ECC is in fact *not* patented. I know that
 > Marsh posted a thing from a Certicom person claiming this,
 > but it is not true.
 > Certicom's patents are on *optimizations* of ECC, as well
 > as a few other things like MQV. There are Certicom-free ECC
 > libraries.

I know they are patent free, and you know they are patent
free, but Certicom does not admit they are patent free and it
is not likely a judge or jury would be able to tell the

The history of patents is that is harder to enforce a valid
patent in a application where it actually applies, than to
enforce a totally and outrageously bogus patent, because the
judge and the jury is likely to find a valid patent's
application to a valid case entirely incomprehensible.

Let us suppose you use Tate pairing key agreement, and
Certicom's lawyer claims you are using MQV

If you use the standard variable names for key agreement,
Certicom will probably win.  Imagine yourself trying to
explain to a judge and jury the irrelevance of variable

Conversely, suppose you really are using MQV - but you have
changed the variable names, and are using the Boost
metaprogramming template library to create and utilize
cryptographic types and operations.  Now imagine Certicom's
lawyer trying to explain boost metaprogramming to a judge and
jury!  Obviously he would not try.  He would instead claim
that Certicom owns ECC no matter how implemented, and slip
the judge a suitcase full of small unmarked bills.  What
else could he do?

 > Certicom has never been clear as to what all they claim

If they were clear to us, they would be entirely
incomprehensible to judges and juries.

 > Strictly speaking, data compression per se and links per se
 > aren't patented.

A page containing a sequence of outward pointing graphic
links is patented:
and there are several data compression
patents so broad as to cover every possible form of data
compression and numerous quite impossible forms of data

 > I was involved in a patent dustup that went sorta like
 > this:
 > Them: "Take a look at this patent. Lots of people have
 > licensed it, maybe you want to, too." (Any smart person
 > starts this way.)
 > Us: "Hmmm. Nope, no, I don't think we do."
 > Them: "Are you sure? We'd like to have a meeting on this.
 > We think you'll find licensing them cheap, and effective.
 > Lots of other people have." (They named the companies who
 > had licensed, so as to make a good impression.)
 > Us: "Sure, we'll take the meeting. But before you come, be
 > sure to look at this patent and this one too. We think you
 > might be interested in licensing it from us. One possible
 > outcome is we like each others' patents." (This is
 > suggesting a cross-license, which is no good for them, as
 > they get no money and have to sign a contract.)

That works when one company is trying to keep other companies
out the business it is in. Patent trolls, however, are in the
patent business.  Since they do not actually practice any
technology, cannot be deterred by a bigger pile of similarly
bogus patents.

When companies threaten each other with bogus patents, it is
like nuclear deterrence.  When a patent troll threatens
companyies with bogus patents, it is like a nuclear

All patents that are actually useful in litigation are bogus,
for since it is obvious the patent office cannot comprehend
this stuff there is no way the court is going to.  Patent
trolls therefore litigate on the basis of bogus patents,
therefore when they claim to have patented breathing and
hunting mammoths, probably have done so, those being the only
kind of patents likely to be upheld.

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