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Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2014 18:42:08 +0000
From: Peter Maxwell <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Never read a patent

On 7 February 2014 15:01, Alan Kaminsky <> wrote:

> In their book "Practical Cryptography" (Wiley Publishing, 2003), pages
> 375-376, noted cryptographers Neils Ferguson and Bruce Schneier say this:
> "One word of advice: never read a patent. That's right. You'd think that
> reading patents to see what they cover is a good idea. It is not. If you
> infringe on a patent without having known that you did so, you may end up
> paying damages to the patent holder. But if they can prove that you
> willfully infringed (because you knew about their patent), you may end up
> paying triple damages. So if you read a patent, you automatically increase
> your liability for infringing that patent by a factor of three.
> "And now for the real stinger: even if you read a patent and decide, as an
> expert in your field, that your work is not covered by the patent, the
> judge might still find that you willfully infringed. You see, you as an
> expert are not qualified to judge what a patent covers. Only a patent
> lawyer can do that. So if you want to avoid the possibility of having to
> pay triple damages, you have to pay a patent lawyer to figure out whether
> you are infringing the patent or not. There are millions of patents out
> there, and you cannot possibly afford to pay a patent lawyer to read every
> one of them.
> "Therefore, the safest solution is to never read a patent. At least you
> can then claim that you didn't willfully infringe on the patent."
‚ÄčI'd tend to agree - especially since it's only been US patents discussed
so far, I'm sure the EU/Asia will massively compound the problem - but
nevertheless, it would be good to have some clear guidance from ‚Äčthe
organisers of the PHC on this issue, as merely stating that submissions
shouldn't infringe on existing patents, and whether those patents don't
have prior art, is somewhat infeasible to check.

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