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[FYI] Software encryption patent incites controversy ...
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- Subject: [FYI] Software encryption patent incites controversy ...
- From: Peter Kuhm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 03 Apr 2002 00:28:53 +0200
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From: "Elyn Wollensky" <email@example.com>
Subject: CDR: Software encryption patent incites controversy ...
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 15:27:55 -0500
Sorry this is so long (I don't have a link) - but this is definitely worth a
read-through when you have a few minutes.
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA., April 2, 2002 - A company that in
February 2001 obtained a patent to encryption technologies
is now harassing other publishers of security software,
demanding that they cough up licensing fees for products
published years before the patent application was filed.
Maz Technologies Inc., http://www.maztechnology.com,
Irvine, CA, is demanding at least $25,000 from PC Dynamics,
http://www.pcdynamics.com. The U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office (PTO) issued patent 6,185,681 to Maz on February 6,
2001. The patent claims to cover all application-
independent or transparent encryption technologies.
"The patent is a mistake, and should never have been
awarded," said Bruce Schneier, internationally-renowned
security technologist, author, founder and chief technical
officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc. Schneier is
the inventor of the Blowfish encryption algorithm and
Twofish, a finalist for the new Federal Advanced Encryption
Standard. In 2001, he testified on computer security to the
U.S. Senate's Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology,
"The Cryptographic File System, written and made available
in 1993, does the same thing. I expect this thing to be
overturned quickly -- it's idiotic. It's abuses of the
patent system like this that make it difficult for
legitimate companies to develop and market technology
products," said Schneier.
"This is an absurd claim," said Peter Avritch, president of
PC Dynamics, which publishes a virtual disk encryption
product for Windows called SafeHouse. The company first
introduced SafeHouse in 1994. In turn, SafeHouse draws on
transparent encryption technologies that PC Dynamics
earlier included in MenuWorks Total Security, first
published in 1991, seven years before the patent
application was filed.
"The demand from Maz is based on a patent application filed
in 1998, long after the widespread use of hard drive
encryption. That application somehow failed to discover and
identify a huge body of 'prior art' that included existing
encryption products, even encryption products used for
decades by the U.S. government - which the PTO also somehow
failed to research before it approved the patent. Clearly,
the PTO needs to re-examine and invalidate this patent.
"Further, did Maz willfully file a false claim of
intellectual property? Under a 'Walker Process' antitrust
counterclaim, a company can seek treble damages from a
patent holder if the patent holder willfully defrauded the
PTO -- in this case, by not referencing the abundance of
like-acting software already available at the time the
patent application was filed," said Avritch.
Koppel, Jacobs, Patrick & Heybel, the law firm for Maz
Technologies, also offered a claim chart and license to
Envoy Data, http://www.envoydata.com, Tempe, AZ. Envoy
resells SafeHouse and publishes its own encryption and
"It's ironic that Richard Koppel, senior partner of the
firm, personally filed the original trademark applications
for MenuWorks in 1987," said Avritch. "Now his firm is
targeting a former client."
"It's also ironic that we've been through this before,"
said Avritch. "In the early 1990s, PC Dynamics published
the Energizer Bunny Screen Saver. In 1994, the company was
targeted as the first test of a patent claiming rights to
nearly all advertising or corporate logos appearing in
software products. Coverage of the patent fight triggered
Bruce Lehman, then Commissioner of Patents for the PTO, to
order a re-examination and invalidation of the patent,
The licensing demands have spurred other developers and
vendors of encryption products to volunteer as expert
witnesses and offer 'prior art' that invalidates the
* Phil Zimmermann is the inventor of PGP (Pretty Good
Privacy), the most widely-used email encryption software in
the world. Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. which was later
acquired by Network Associates Inc. "Does the lack of
reference to obvious and well-known prior art products
indicate an ignorance on the part of the patent applicant
or a deliberate attempt to exclude those products from
consideration as prior art by the Patent & Trademark
Office? This illustrates a festering problem at the PTO
with how patents get issued. This patent cannot be allowed
to stand," said Zimmermann.
* Glenn Everhart has written security-related software
since the 1970s. In 1978, 20 years before the Maz
application was filed, he authored a virtual encrypted disk
system for the RSX11D from Digital Equipment Corp. He has
placed his work into the public domain and allowed the
source code and documentation to be distributed freely in
Internet-based software collections. "It annoys me that
some Johnny-come-latelies get a patent on it," said
* "Maz Technologies is holding the security industry
hostage," said Jean-Luc Cooke, chief scientist and co-
founder of CertainKey Inc. "Patenting a novel padlock
design is sensible. Patenting the use of a padlock to
protect a filing cabinet versus a garage door makes no
sense whatsoever. There is nothing 'novel' about such a
patent. Clearly, its purpose is not to protect innovation,
but to stifle it for monetary gain."
* "It's hard to imagine how the claims in this patent got
approved," said Matt Blaze, a research scientist in
computer security and cryptography at AT&T Labs.
"Transparent, automatic file encryption has been widely
known and published -- even taught to students -- for at
least a decade. In fact, I described many of the techniques
claimed in this patent in a published paper on the CFS
encrypting file system back in 1993 -- five years ahead of
the MAZ patent application."
* Krag Brotby is a member of the Society of Competitive
Intelligence Professionals, program director for the
California High Tech Task Force steering committee and a
member of the High Tech Criminal Investigators Association.
In the 1980s, more than a decade before the Maz application
was filed, Brotby was president of Vault Corp., which
created FILELOK, a product that combined media
fingerprinting technology with transparent file encryption.
He obtained patents for the fingerprinting technologies,
"but we chose to not apply for patents on transparent
encryption because it was not novel then and it certainly
is not novel now."
* Noah Groth, president of PC Guardian,
http://www.pcguardian.com, San Rafael, CA, has been
developing data protection software since 1993. His
company's Encryption Plus(r) Hard Disk is developed around
Schneier's Blowfish algorithm. "Transparent, on-the-fly
encryption has been around for some time," said Groth. "The
technology is widely documented, and the documentation is
relatively easy to obtain. All Maz Technologies has done
with its patent is to sully the reputation of the Patent
and Trademark Office by not bringing this documentation to
the attention of the PTO staff." Groth said that the law
firm for Maz Technologies also offered to PC Guardian a
claim chart and license.
PC Dynamics, http://www.pcdynamics.com, Westlake Village,
CA., publishes SafeHouse and My Corkboard. The company
offers the software programs to users via download from the
company's Web site, to corporations via site licenses, and
to OEMs under private labels.
Peter Avritch, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 818-889-1741
Matt Blaze, mailto:email@example.com, 973-360-8352
Krag Brotby, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-827-6606
Jean-Luc Cooke, mailto:email@example.com, 613-263-2983
Glenn Everhart, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 302-659-0460
Noah Groth, mailto:email@example.com, 415-459-0190
Bruce Schneier, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 408-777-3612
Phil Zimmermann, mailto:email@example.com, 650-322-7377
US Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199 or 703-308-4357
Attorneys for Maz Technologies Inc.
Steven C. Sereboff, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Koppel, mailto:rkoppel@koppelpatent
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