[cryptography] Open Whisper Systems intellectual property dispute

Mansour Moufid mansourmoufid at gmail.com
Tue May 10 23:35:18 EDT 2016

I just heard very unfortunate news about some intellectual property
dispute between Open Whisper Systems and another company.

I won't link to it here, I don't think it would do any good.

It's a strange story.  The double ratchet protocol specification is
dedicated to the public domain, the reference implementation is open
source, and the other implementation is in a different programming
language.  So what could the dispute possibly be about?

I also noticed that in the last month or so all the usual references
to the Axolotl protocol were renamed to the double ratchet protocol
or "Signal Protocol."  The timing may be a coincidence or maybe not.

So I searched for any trademarks and sure enough there is a live
trademark for the word Axolotl (registration number 2798167):

    Computer software for use in the field of health care,
    namely, for providing communication ...

I guess the WhatsApp lawyers were not happy about that.

I may be totally wrong.  But the lesson remains: always check for
trademarks before naming your projects, even for open-source, and
certainly before doing business.

USPTO TESS: <http://tess2.uspto.gov/>

Good luck to all.


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