A LEGAL way---maybe!

William Oldacre 76114.2307 at CompuServe.COM
Sun May 2 21:08:40 PDT 1993

To: >Internet:cypherpunks at toad.com;>Internet:huges at soda.berkeley.edu;
To: >Internet:prz at sage.cgd.ucar.edu

One of the first attornys I ever had used to build steam engines as a 
hobby.  He would purchase a kit of basic castings somewhere and then 
machine them into beautiful working models.  Some of the designs were 
covered by modern patents.  That's where I first heard of the "if for 
private use" principal.  

It was reaffirmed, some years later, by an attorney working for one 
of the large law firms next to the U.S. Patent Office.  I'd designed 
several electronic circuits, one of which (the simplest and clearly
unpatentable) had appeared on the front cover of Popular Electronics 
magazine.  I was concerned about another which might be patentable.  
I came away from our discussion with the impression that there was 
nothing to stop someone who wanted to build a single copy of a 
patented design for themselves.  (I came away from my first attempt 
at a patent search with a headache.)

Yesterday, I was delighted when this small bit of knowledge seemed to 
have some practical application, i.e. legally bypassing a frivolous 
patent and putting a good encryption program in the hands of an 
exposed public. So today I decided to spend some time at the Univ. of 
Fla. law library to get the actual statute numbers and case law 
background.  (Sigh) I didn't have much luck.  Three hours wasn't 
nearly enough time to research roughly 80 feet of shelf space filled 
with patent law.  But I couldn't confirm what I said yesterday and 
I'm hoping that I haven't miscontrued something called the "public 
use doctrine."  Tomorrow I'll try to get a legal opinion on the 

If what I said yesterday turns out to be wrong, there remains an 
important point to consider.  Finding legal ways to sidestep patents 
is the name of the game.  It may even encourage further innovation.  
What makes patent law such a lucrative field is not the four inches 
of shelf space devoted to the actual law itself, but weight of the 
seventy nine feet eight inches of case law next to it.  There was a 
lot of encouraging background there.  Something like fifty percent of 
all patents in litigation are overturned.  And misuse is an excellent 
way to overturn one.  Interference is another.  

CypherPunks has something that Public Key Partners doesn't.  An 
organization of motivated people who can devote hundreds of person 
hours to putting the RSA patent under a microscope.  To pay someone 
to do that amount of research would cost a fortune.  If you put all 
of the skills each of us has down on paper it would take a sizable 
corporation to equal it.  And, the high speed communications network 
is already in place.  I think it's time the organization was less a 
shrill chorus of skeptics and more of a cavalry charge.  By now, 
Phil Zimmermann and some others would find us a welcome sight coming 
over the hill top.  

If we break the PGP/RSA problem into managable pieces and divide 
ourselves into working groups something is bound to turn up.  And 
then there is the press.  Magazine articles and news releases will 
get the public and legislators involved.  Don't think this won't 
work.  Remember the guy in Colorado three years ago with a perfectly 
worthless generator that produced more energy than it used?  He got the 
legislature to force the N.B.S. to examine it over their ongoing 
objection.  The arguments I've heard on this newsgroup are sound.  
You don't like the chill that has come over public cryptography, I 
don't like it, and the public won't like it either.  Forget how the 
law is written, patent laws have been in a constant state of flux 
since their inception.  Allowing patents on ordinary mathematics was 
mistake that has to be rectified. 

To start with, I need something.  Does anyone out there have the 
actual patent numbers for the RSA and DHM (Diffie-Helman-Merkle?) 
patents so I can order copies?

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list