[buug] Great Links re. Internet/Linux Security

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Aug 11 10:49:40 PDT 2000

begin  Christopher Sullivan quotation:

> When is the exact date of the RSA patent expiration?

Interesting question.  The bizarre thing is that it's probably
_literally_ indeterminate.  http://lwn.net/2000/0727/backpage.php3 :

 Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 16:54:03 -0700
 To: letters at lwn.net
 Subject: RSA Patent Expiration
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>

 Dear Mr. Corbet and Ms. Coolbaugh:

 You may be amused to hear that the data and time the (USA) patent on RSA
 expires may be literally indeterminate!  

 The RSA algorithm is covered by US patent #4,405,829, which was issued
 September 20, 1983 (and thus is a 17-year patent) to Ronald Rivest, Avi
 Shamir, and Leonard Adleman.  Everyone says it therefore expires this
 September 20.  Here in the Bay Area, we have tentative plans for a
 celebration party and informational event concerning RSA and other
 crypto software, when the patent expires.  But, the question is, when
 exactly?  5 PM Washington DC time on the 20th?  8 AM Washington DC time
 on the 21st?

 Hoping to find out when exactly the algorithm can be freely used in the
 USA without royalties or infringement, we posed that question to some
 friendly and knowledgeable patent attorneys at the firm Bever, Hoffman,
 and Harms, LLC (http://www.beverlaw.com/), in San Jose.  Partner Julie
 Stephenson kindly responded, with an e-mail from that firm (which
 presumably should not be considered legal advice):


 I researched the question right after we spoke.  Unfortunately, the
 answer is that there is no answer.  According to Chisum (a premiere
 researcher in the field), the caselaw on the subject is in conflict.
 Thus, if a patent has a date of June 28, 1983, and the term of the
 patent is 17 years, then the last day of coverage of the patent has been
 interpreted to be both June 27, 2000, and June 28, 2000, in different

 I looked around a little further, and found no information relating to
 the time of expiration of a patent.  Because the caselaw is still in
 conflict on the date of expiration, I can't imagine a situation where
 the *time* on the date of expiration (much less the time zone of the
 time on the date of expiration) would have been litigated without
 clarifying that whole date of expiration mess.  So I can give you no
 direction as to *when* you should begin partying.

 What does this mean for you?  Well, you can either party on September
 20, 2000, and be prepared to change the name of your party from "the
 first day of no coverage by the RSA patent" to "the last day of
 oppression by the RSA patent" while knowing that anyone partying from
 11:55 pm to 12:05 am will have actually partied on the right day
 (ignoring that whole time zone thing) OR you can party on September 21,
 2000, and be assured that you are partying on a no-patent coverage day.
 However, in the minds of some people, you would be partying on the day
 after the day the patent expires.  :)  If it helps at all, it appears
 that generic drug manufacturers would begin selling their drugs on (in
 the example above) June 29, 2000.  (Note that this ignores the issue of
 then manufacturing the drugs prior to the expiration of the patent,
 which was one of the bases for litigation in one of the conflicting
 cases mentioned above.)

 Sorry I couldn't be more clear - that is the pitfall of working in the
 law.... There is often no right answer, only opinions and arguments.  On
 the bright side, you can choose a reasonable time and date of expiration 
(say, 11:59 pm EST on September 20, 2000), and have some caselaw basis
 for choosing that date.  If you think of it, please let me know what you
 decide.  I'll have a drink at that time in celebration.  :)

 Have fun,



 Happily, after one notices that the 20th is a Thursday, the alternative
 of skirting all these issues by holding the party on Saturday the 23rd,
 instead, became (er...) patently obvious.

 Cheers,                              "Open your present...."
 Rick Moen                            "No, you open your present...."
 rick (at) linuxmafia.com             Kaczinski Christmas.
                --  Unabomber Haiku Contest, CyberLaw mailing list

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