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hash patent by AltNet; Python is prior art?

 
 
GerritM
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      01-15-2005
ZDnet features an article about the had patent at AltNet
http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5534087.html . Apparantly this issue
plays already for some time, now the p2p companies are threatened, becuase
they use hashing to recognize files.

As far as I know hasing is a very old technique used to quickly look up
information. The use of hashing always requires an idnetity check, because
the lookup is not unique (mapping a very big amount of possibilities on a
limited amount of entries). This is a fast and robust way of finding
information, if the right hashing function is used.

How can this type of fundamental knowledge be patented? I am afraid this is
again an example of a total failure of the current patent system.
Unfortunately these ridiculous examples endanger smaller companies, open
software activities amd innovation in general.

kind regards, Gerrit

--
Praktijk voor Psychosociale therapie Lia Charité
<www.liacharite.nl>


 
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Alex Martelli
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      01-15-2005
GerritM <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> How can this type of fundamental knowledge be patented? I am afraid this is
> again an example of a total failure of the current patent system.


As a European citizen, you have a chance to make a difference to
software patentability in Europe -- think globally, act locally. The
Netherlands are a crucial country in the ongoing battle against software
patents. Get active! <http://swpat.ffii.org/> -- we have won major
battles over the last 4+ years and we'll need to win quite a few more to
break the back of this ugly beast forever. A future where the US and
other major SW development countries such as India have saddled
themselves with this absurdity, and Europe has freed itself of it, is
THE best competitive hope to make Europe into the hotbed of software
development and IT innovation in the next generation. Personally, I'm
neither patriotic nor competitive, so I'd rather look forward to a world
entirely free of this blight -- but hey, where I can make a difference
is HERE, so, HERE is where I act.


Alex
 
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Robert Kern
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      01-15-2005
GerritM wrote:
> ZDnet features an article about the had patent at AltNet
> http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5534087.html . Apparantly this issue
> plays already for some time, now the p2p companies are threatened, becuase
> they use hashing to recognize files.
>
> As far as I know hasing is a very old technique used to quickly look up
> information. The use of hashing always requires an idnetity check, because
> the lookup is not unique (mapping a very big amount of possibilities on a
> limited amount of entries). This is a fast and robust way of finding
> information, if the right hashing function is used.


I don't know the details, but I'm willing to bet that the kind of hashes
being disputed here are cryptographic hashes, not the kind that Python
uses for dictionaries. I'm also willing to bet that the patent won't
hold up in court because there's quite a lot of prior art with respect
to cryptographic hashes, too.

--
Robert Kern
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed)

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
-- Richard Harter
 
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Tim Churches
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      01-15-2005
GerritM wrote:
> ZDnet features an article about the had patent at AltNet
> http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-5534087.html . Apparantly this issue
> plays already for some time, now the p2p companies are threatened, becuase
> they use hashing to recognize files.


I find it incredibly annoying when journalists reporting on patent
issues don't bother to quote the patent numbers (or patent application
numbers) concerned (failure to do so probably means they haven't
bothered to examine the patent or patent application themselves). In
this case, a search is made doubly difficult because the patent was
purchased from someone else, so a name serach can't be done. A quick
keyworfd search on the USPTO web site revealed some related patents
issued to Apple and Sony, but hard to identify this particular patent.

> As far as I know hasing is a very old technique used to quickly look up
> information. The use of hashing always requires an idnetity check, because
> the lookup is not unique (mapping a very big amount of possibilities on a
> limited amount of entries). This is a fast and robust way of finding
> information, if the right hashing function is used.
>
> How can this type of fundamental knowledge be patented? I am afraid this is
> again an example of a total failure of the current patent system.
> Unfortunately these ridiculous examples endanger smaller companies, open
> software activities amd innovation in general.


What you have to remember is that the US (and some countries which have
been stupid enough to follow its lead, like Japan, Australia and now it
seems India) permits patents not just on software algorithms and
techniques, but also on business methods. Thus the "novel" application
of a well-known and widely-used technique such as hashing to a
particular field of endeavour (like file sharing on the Internet) can be
patented (in the US). To be novel, there must be no published prior art
- but the prior art needs to be specific to the claims of the patent. So
if the patent says "use of hashing to uniquely identify files in a
peer-to-peer network via IP over the Internet", then the prior art needs
to describe exactly that. The Australian government recently passed
legislation which tightened this test of novelty (thank goodness) by
allowing separate bits of prior art which describe aspects of a patent
claim to be combined to some degree when opposing a patent - but the
test for novelty remains remarkably lax in the US, I beleive.

And I agree 100% with Alex Martelli - Europe and other countries must
reject software, algorithmic and business method patents and thus create
a powerhouse of innovation. let the US and fellow-travellers stew in
their own juice - they will become powerhouses of litigation instead.
Provided other countries don't recognise software and business method
patents, the litigation will be confined within US borders, where
resources can be productivelt spent making television dramas about
attractive young patent attorneys and plodding, tram-riding patent
clerks who are really brilliant physicists if only someone would
recognise their potential. So yes, please write to your MP and MEP and
protest against the prospect of software and business method patents in
Europe. Hopefully one day within my lifetime we'll have a governemt here
in Australia which will roll back the damage done to our patent system
by trying to make just like the US system, just so we can conclude an
unbelieveably inequitable free trade agreement with the US. But that's
our problem.

Tim C

 
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Jeff Shannon
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      01-17-2005
Robert Kern wrote:

> I don't know the details [...]


Neither do I, but...

> I'm also willing to bet that the patent won't
> hold up in court because there's quite a lot of prior art with respect
> to cryptographic hashes, too.


The problem with that is that someone needs to be able to *afford* to
challenge it in court. Even patents that are blatantly non-original
on the face of things can be difficult and expensive to challenge.
Most companies would rather just avoid the legal risks involved in
making such a challenge, and most individuals can't afford the kind of
legal team that'd be necessary.

I'll join in encouraging Europeans to do their best to reject these
styles of patents. It's a bit too late for the US, but maybe if we
have concrete examples of the benefits of limiting patents then there
might be hope for the future. And if things get too bad here, I'd
like to have somewhere pleasant to emigrate to.

Jeff Shannon
Technician/Programmer
Credit International


 
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more i squawed
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      01-17-2005
Tim Churches a écrit :

> Provided other countries don't recognise software and business method
> patents, the litigation will be confined within US borders, where
> resources can be productivelt spent making television dramas about
> attractive young patent attorneys and plodding, tram-riding patent
> clerks who are really brilliant physicists if only someone would
> recognise their potential.


Nicely put.
 
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JanC
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      01-22-2005
Tim Churches schreef:

> And I agree 100% with Alex Martelli - Europe and other countries must
> reject software, algorithmic and business method patents and thus create
> a powerhouse of innovation. let the US and fellow-travellers stew in
> their own juice - they will become powerhouses of litigation instead.
> Provided other countries don't recognise software and business method
> patents, the litigation will be confined within US borders, where
> resources can be productivelt spent making television dramas about
> attractive young patent attorneys and plodding, tram-riding patent
> clerks who are really brilliant physicists if only someone would
> recognise their potential. So yes, please write to your MP and MEP and
> protest against the prospect of software and business method patents in
> Europe. Hopefully one day within my lifetime we'll have a governemt here
> in Australia which will roll back the damage done to our patent system
> by trying to make just like the US system, just so we can conclude an
> unbelieveably inequitable free trade agreement with the US. But that's
> our problem.


It's not looking really good here in Europe:
<http://swpat.ffii.org/letters/fish0501/index.html>

If they succeed to push this through and Poland--or another country--
doesn't help us...

--
JanC

"Be strict when sending and tolerant when receiving."
RFC 1958 - Architectural Principles of the Internet - section 3.9
 
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