back to article Sued for using HTTPS: Big brands told to cough up in crypto patent fight

Scores of big brands – from AT&T and Yahoo! to Netflix, GoPro and Macy's – are being sued because their HTTPS websites allegedly infringe an encryption patent. It appears in May this year CryptoPeak Solutions, based in Longview, Texas, got its hands on US Patent 6,202,150, which describes "auto-escrowable and auto-certifiable …

Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

Oh, how naughty!

The problem with patent trolls is, that in the long term they damage the patent system and make it more difficult for inventors to be compensated for their inventions. Certainly the American patent system also has it's problems, but here we have a valid patent that was bought by a troll-like entity that starts shooting around at cat & dog in the hope to monetize. I suppose they aim for out of court settlements, as their claim doesn't sound like it would hold up in court. Anyway - even this example shows that the system is not completely broken. The inventors could sell their patent and got paid. The problem in this case seems rather to be the American court system. A rather big problem, of course.

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Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

Two issues, too many US patents are invalid particularly software patents and the 9 Seniles have not bothered to hammer the low courts for their failure to do their judicial duties. Also, loser pays would help, one big loss by troll and they are done.

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Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

A quick look reveals their office is in a lawyers' nest office building, and the actual registering of the llc is done by proxy through Legalinc....

Any bets the litigating attorney office is actually the owner of the patent, all the way down the line?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

Loser pays generally makes no different to a patent troll when it's a shell set up with no assets other than its worthless patent.

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Re: Loser shell company evades payment

Easy: Patent litigators must post a bond along with their first hint that a product might infringe their patent. $1000 per word and $1,000,000 per diagram in the patent should do it.

The other way to make progress is to say that if patent litigation starts in East Texas, then is all the proof you need that all the patents involved are invalid.

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Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

@ a_yank_lurker

Yes, too many US patents are trivial, obvious and invalid. However in this particular case the patent itself seems to be valid. In this case the troll's claims are out of focus, as the patent does not really fit to the claim, so the case should be rejected, but this is up to the court to decide.

As for loser pays - imagine you file a patent for a breakthrough idea. A big company picks it up and says "hey, this a great idea - let's use it and if the sucker wants some money for his idea, tough job - he will never risk to pay the 5 lawyers we are going to put on the case, right?"

The patent system has two goals: One is to make sure inventors get a fair share, but perhaps even more importantly inventions should be encouraged and spread by publishing them. If any megacorp can rip off any privately owned patent, people would probably stop filing them, right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

" However in this particular case the patent itself seems to be valid"

You can't patent math & by extension software in the US. The 'lawyers' managed to get in the transformation argument which is what most software battles are based on, but this patent appears to be Math as all software encryption is, therefore how is it valid?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

" If any megacorp can rip off any privately owned patent, people would probably stop filing them, right?"

What makes you think this isn't already happening?

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Flame

Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll"

Two prime examples:

Ford - intermittent wipers

Sears - push-button socket release

That just scratches the surface...read up on them and see.

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Re: Loser shell company evades payment

"

Easy: Patent litigators must post a bond along with their first hint that a product might infringe their patent. $1000 per word and $1,000,000 per diagram in the patent should do it.

"

OK - so imagine you come up with a fantastic invention (an antigravity device). You use up all your savings and mortgage your house to pay for patents on your fantastic invention.

Then all the big companies start making anti-gravity machines (having got the idea by reading your excellent patent), but they don't pay you any royalties at all. Unfortunately your suggestion has been implemented and so there is absolutely no way you can afford to do anything to stop them. You die in bitter poverty.

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Anonymous Coward

I'll happily hand over 100% of my website's nett earnings.

As the site costs me about $100/month to run and earns me nothing, that'll be a nice income stream from this group.

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Dear rest of the world:

We think people who pull this kind of crap are scum, too. We can thank the less than sincere promises of torte reform by lawyers in all levels of government.

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Unhappy

@zen1 -- Re: Dear rest of the world:

I share your feelings also. And I'm getting tired of having to apologize for idiots I didn't elect.

Maybe we do need to invoke some Jeffersonian words to the government now and then... "When in the course of human events...." might be a good start.

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Re: Dear rest of the world:

Well, yeah, patent trolls are cut from the same piece of tire-flattened shit as telemarketers, spammers, and debt collectors. Out of all the possible ways to make a living, THIS is what you chose? Really? Tell your mother exactly what you do, then ask her if she's proud of you.

Get a real job. Get a life. And leave the decent people out of your moneymaking fantasies.

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Coat

Re: Dear rest of the world:

<herring color="red">We can thank the less than sincere promises of torte reform by lawyers in all levels of government.</herring>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dear rest of the world:

Other parts of the world have similar madness. The worst bit is that the prosecuting party usually is less than timely in stepping up. Rather than keeping an eye on the industry and making themselves known early, they wait until lots of people have bought in, then strike.

Different industry, and not even IP but rather copyright related, but the same tactic. Back in 1980, the band Men At Work released the song Land Down Under. In 2008, they got sued for copyright infringement because of a flute rift at the start sounded a lot like a 1932 song, "Kookaburra".

Now this wasn't some song that was just released straight to vinyl and never got played. It was considered an unofficial "anthem", at least on Australian radio stations. It made the top of the charts at the time.

Yet, they didn't prosecute until nearly 30 years later. To my mind, the horse had well and truly bolted, but that's not how the legal fraternity see it — and in my mind, that is by far the biggest flaw in the legal system, particularly around patents.

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Re: Dear rest of the world:

The thing I find so infuriating about the patent trolling problem is that law suits over something as ubiquitous as https would be akin to Rolls suing the rest of the auto industry because of their use of the steering wheel in an automobile, or Lancaster suing other manufacturers for using disc brakes to stop their vehicles. It's a waste of the courts time, a waste of company expenses, which ultimately get passed to the consumer, etc. This shit has to stop!

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Re: Dear rest of the world:

promises of torte reform

How are you going to reform tortes? Isn't the round shape pretty much ideal for them? Otherwise they might not cook evenly.

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Windows

Not even a patent

It sounds more like a "business patent": "Here is a generic idea that allows other people to read your pretend-encrypted stuff without your knowledge or aquiesence: hand over part of your key to a general, hackable registry held by a trusty government." Ha Ha. Now hand over the money.

It is useful to remember that encryption c.a. 1997 in Amurrikka was about the "Clipper Chip" (government listening in to you encrypted phone conversation). I would hazard a guess that the patent comes from there

(Other themes of interest back then where: "illegal pornography on the Interwebs", Timmy McVeigh, the Louis Freeh FBI - Louis being a nasty piece of work - and disgusting excesses by Democreeps and Rethuglians alike. All of that seems frankly tame nowadays.)

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Re: Not even a patent

Interesting to see the names absent from the court list...

Looking at the patent, it can't (surely?) be about the use of HTTPS and ECC, given both predate the patent: HTTPS in 1994 and ECC in 1985. The key parts seem to be about key escrow and hence recovery, so I suspect the link between defendants is that they are using the same third-party library, which in turn begs the question does RFC4492 infringe this patent?

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Re: Not even a patent

it can't (surely?) be about the use of HTTPS and ECC, given both predate the patent

Or given that the patent has nothing to do with either of them, except incidentally: HTTPS as an application of asymmetric cryptography which could in turn be a possible application of the scheme, and ECC being a source of asymmetric-cryptographic algorithms, the private keys of which could be escrowed under the scheme.

It's "about" HTTPS and ECC the same way a patent on manufacturing tires would be "about" cars and rubber.

It's also not about the mathematics involved. It's about a protocol - a mechanical procedure - that happens to use various mathematical constructs in some of its steps, and assigns particular interpretations to the results. But apparently reading patents is a rare skill around here.

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Anonymous Coward

The Dumbest of the Dumb ...

... work in the US Patent Office. They are genetically engineered and specially selected from birth.

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Re: The Dumbest of the Dumb ...

It is worse than that. Many in the lower ranks have brains, but the rules they are required to follow are insane and make them look like the dumbest of the dumb. Imagine if even half those people were doing something constructive instead.

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Re: The Dumbest of the Dumb ...

WHEATLEY ("You not only are a moron. You were DESIGNED to be a moron") - THE PATENT OFFICE!

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FAIL

Cough... cough...

"cough... Gif... cough..."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cough... cough...

"cough... Jif... cough..."

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Trollface

Re: Cough... cough...

Nasty cough you have there! Sounded like you were trying to insult somebody, or maybe you just want a PBJ. That'll just make it worse!

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So....

All those people demanding to know why El Reg hasn't gone https by default, now have their answer.

The Vulture that bites the hand that feeds IT, was protecting itself from the window licking vulture that likes to smear shit on the walls.

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Anonymous Coward

I want to patent..

.. a method to annoy patent trolls.

I'm mainly hoping for an implosion when they acquire that patent.

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MJI
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It may be a lot cheaper to .......

Employ a hitman and remove the company.

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Anonymous Coward

Some people might even call it a "patent troll."

remarkably prudent comment. So who's going to throw the first REAL stone (Jehovah!)?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll."

ARE THERE LAWYERS HERE TONIGHT?

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Re: Some people might even call it a "patent troll."

ARE THERE LAWYERS HERE TONIGHT?

No, but I see the trolls are up and about.

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Unfortunately this sort of "legal adventurism" has no downside for the lawyer filing the lawsuit as there is no "looser pays" in US Civil Courts. Because most of the elected legislators are lawyers and the Trial Lawyers Associations are big check writers for the campaign coffers of their pet legislators the system won't change any time soon.

What needs to happen is for the lawyer, any staff, and any service providers employed by the law firm need to suddenly find themselves on a "service denial" list for any and all organizations they are attempting to shake down through their thinly veiled "trolling".

If they suddenly found themselves unable to obtain business insurance, personal insurance, access to any online shopping services and required to PAY CASH, with a substantial damage deposit for any lodging, car rental, and etc. they might just decide that there is no money to be made here and a lot of grief will accrue from the attempt to pursue this case.

I noted that there don't seem to be any Banks on the list, even though banks universally use HTTPS for all online banking services. Perhaps the law firm has already been informed by one or more banks that if they go there they may just find certain online transactions will become very-difficult-if-not-actually-impossible-to-complete?

I wonder if any of the paperwork for these filings was handled via an HTTPS connection over the internet?

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"I noted that there don't seem to be any Banks on the list" (@Public Citizen)

Banks have been trolled by Intellectual Vultures^WVentures for SSL/TLS in the past; see "Intellectual Ventures vs Capitol One", "Intellectual Ventures vs Chase" and so on. I believe the Chase one is still ongoing...

eg http://www.intellectualventures.com/assets_docs/Intellectual_Ventures_-_JPMorgan_Chase_Complaint_2013_1.pdf mentions 7634666 which is, basically, hardware accelerated public key encryption engine, and also 5745574 which appears to be SSL certificate authority stuff.

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Headmaster

there is no "looser pays" in US Civil Courts

There are no tighter pays laws either. Oh, wait! You meant "loser pays", did you?

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Anonymous Coward

SImplest solutions...

Make IP non-transferable, only the person/people who actually came up with it can own it. As soon as it is transfered it becomes public domain.

or

Require the defendant to show they had used it in a comercial product before the alleged infringing product.

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Holmes

Re: SImplest solutions...

I don't even see why this is downvoted.

Can Andrew vote six times in a row??

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They might just have bitten off more than they can chew

This kind of thing usually involves suing lots and lots of smaller firms who can't afford litigation.

If all the very big firms that they are suing get together to share legal expenses they can drown them in lawyers. They might even be able to push it to a higher court and get a precedent that goes some way to stopping trolling.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They might just have bitten off more than they can chew

We have been here before. (Google "Stambler patents".) The suit is probably on contingency and the defendants typically do not seek invalidation.

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Stop

Here is a suggestion to America

Stop it with your way of suing everyone every time there is an opportunity.

This crypto encrypting technology should NOT be owned by ANYONE - It works to secure the people of the internet. How can you sue a company for that?

In America you sue and get sued REGARDLESS of the outcome to any other parties, even if it means potentially RUINING another company because you lack the common sense needed to stop this turd like behaviour!

You all need your bloody heads looking at!

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Devil

Re: Here is a suggestion to America

You all need your bloody heads looking at!

... through the opening that appears when it is separated from the previously-attached body.

(and you mean "looked at")

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Re: Here is a suggestion to America

This crypto encrypting technology should NOT be owned by ANYONE - It works to secure the people of the internet.

Try reading the patent. It has nothing to do with "crypto encrypting technology" (assuming we generously read that phrase as meaning anything at all), and it most definitely does not "secure the people of the internet" (assuming that phrase means something).

For one thing, no one's using the technique described by the patent, and for another, if they were using it, it would reduce their security. By design. That's what it's supposed to do.

Of course, your broader argument seems to be that if a patent describes something useful and important, then it shouldn't be granted. I think you do not understand the concept of the patent.

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The US patent office used to be a government organisation, and although not perfect, took some care not to approve stupid patents or ones with prior art.

Then they sort of "privatised" it, and it survives only through the payments made to patent something. For some reason or other, they suddenly started approving things that previously wouldn't have got through, making it far easier to get "troll patents"

Odd that, isn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

"Then they sort of "privatised" it, and it survives only through the payments made to patent something. For some reason or other, they suddenly started approving things that previously wouldn't have got through, making it far easier to get "troll patents" "

I was going to mention that but you beat me to it.

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I was going to mention that but you beat me to it.

And so now you can't mention it without paying.

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Then they sort of "privatised" it, and it survives only through the payments made to patent something.

Sort of a microcosm of a prototypical Republican/Libertarian utopia, innit?

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Facepalm

> Republican/Libertarian

Using these two in the same sentence outs you as clueless.

Libertarians would rightfully flush patents down the toilet. Except Randians, but these are really not libertarians. A libertarian would deny to have a need for a "head schoolmaster" to manage "intellectual property".

As for Rebups. Well.... they support Raython. Enough.

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How does the plaintiff know for sure what sort of encryption the defendant(s) use without decrypting traffic, which would be in violation of the DCMA?

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How does the plaintiff know for sure what sort of encryption the defendant(s) use without decrypting traffic, which would be in violation of the DCMA?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security

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