Chaum (was Re: Very good discussion by me of Intellectual Property Rights ;-))
Tue, 22 Dec 1998 04:41:45 -0800 (PST)

Hal Finney [] wrote:
>In cryptography, the researcher sometimes called the "patron saint"
>of cypherpunks, David Chaum, has a number of patents on technologies
>which can greatly enhance freedom and privacy. It appears that the
>hope of patent protection has been a significant motivation for him.
>This is what you risk losing if you eliminate patents.

Citing Chaum as an argument for patents seems bizarre to me. Last time I hung out with a bunch of cypherpunks, most times Chaum's name was mentioned were in comments like: 'Chaum's patents are a major cause of the lack of privacy on the Net', 'Do you think Chaum's being paid to keep anonymous ecash off the market?', 'How can we work around Chaum's patents and set up our own anonymous ecash system?' and 'When do Chaum's patents expire so we can have anonymous ecash at last?'

The ecash blinding patent isn't as obvious as an XOR cursor, but it's not far from it. If Chaum hadn't patented it someone else would have discovered it by now and it would probably be widely used in anonymous systems; but because Chaum did patent it the technology is languishing and won't see widespread use until the patent expires. This seems to be a major argument *against* patents, not for them.

On the more general front, the main problem with software and computer hardware patents is that twenty-year monopolies are absurd in an industry where the technology changes every year or two; a twenty-year monopoly is effectively infinite, because the patented technology will almost certainly be obsolete by the time the patent expires. This is not true in, say, auto manufacture, where the basic technology has changed little in the last century.