[buug] Great Links re. Internet/Linux Security
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. :)
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.
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