Subject: Re: Novel anti-software-patent article
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 13:49:52 -0500 (EST)

Crispin Cowan writes:
 > So, the purpose of patents is to advance the state of the arts for the public
 > good.  Ok, now consider crypto algorithms.  Suppose that software algorithm
 > patents are just abolished.  Further suppose that I invent a spiffy new crypto
 > algorithm (a hypothetical and highly unlikely event :-)  How might I profit from
 > my invention?  The algorithm is so elegant that anyone can produce a compatible
 > implementation if I publish it.  If algorithm patents still worked, then I'd
 > patent it.  But without patents, I'm just sunk.

No, you can be the first to market a product.  A patent is just a
license to sue somebody -- it doesn't guarantee you anything except
hassles.  You should go read some of Don Lancaster's anti-patent
screeds at .

 > So, *totally* abolishing patents seems to have the effect of turning crypto
 > algorithm research from a business into a hobby.  How does that advance the state
 > of the arts?

Well, in the 1700's and 1800's, science (pure research) was a hobby of
the well-to-do.  Oh, and if you found out something really unique,
like volts, or amps, coulomb, or newtons, you got the units for
measuring it named after you.  Now there's RSA, Duff's device, Karn's
algorithm, and the Gilmore box (well, I just made that one up; John is
too humble to name his DES-cracking box after himself).  No reason why
more of that can't happen, and it sure seems to me like attention
these days turns into money.

So pay attention: we don't need patents!

-russ nelson <>
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