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U.S. Navy Patents the Firewall?

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the i'd-have-gone-after-antivirus dept.


Krishna Dagli writes to mention a post by Bruce Schneier on his site indicating that the U.S. Navy may be patenting the Firewall. Whether or not it is their intention to do so is unclear. From the patent description: "In a communication system having a plurality of networks, a method of achieving network separation between first and second networks is described. First and second networks with respective first and second degrees of trust are defined, the first degree of trust being higher than the second degree of trust. Communication between the first and second networks is enabled via a network interface system having a protocol stack, the protocol stack implemented by the network interface system in an application layer."

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Ya ha! (5, Funny)

Suspended_Reality (927563) | about 8 years ago | (#15674862)

I was going to make a "first post", but I think I read the Army is patenting that. Part of their Military Initiative to kill first, ask questions later.

Re:Ya ha! (2)

hey! (33014) | about 8 years ago | (#15674922)

Part of their Military Initiative to kill first, ask questions later.

It's all about bits on the ground.

Re:Ya ha! (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | about 8 years ago | (#15675202)

Part of their Military Initiative to kill first, ask questions later.

The Military is going to patent "bringing people back to life", so then the above statement will actually be legit.

I think I have prior art in my D-link (5, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | about 8 years ago | (#15674866)

And my cisco, and my netopia, and my netgear.

Re:I think I have prior art in my D-link (0, Offtopic)

hey! (33014) | about 8 years ago | (#15674897)

It's so old, Chuck Berry wrote a song back in 1972:

When I was little boy In Grammar school
Always went by the very best rule
But Evertime the bell would ring
You'd catch me playing with my D-Link

My D-Link My D-Link won't you play with My D-link
My D-Link My D-Link won't you play with My D-link

Proxy firewalls (5, Informative)

booch (4157) | about 8 years ago | (#15675213)

The patent does not apply to packet filter firewalls (the majority of all firewalls, including the ones you listed) because it says the packets traverse the application layer. The market for application layer (proxy) firewalls is actually pretty narrow. The main contender (SideWinder) recently bought out the 2 main competitors (Gauntlet and CyberGuard). Whether it would apply to hybrid firewalls (packet filters that do deep inspection, like Checkpoint and Netscreen) is less clear.

Re:I think I have prior art in my D-link (1)

Marillion (33728) | about 8 years ago | (#15675334)

I think Squid [] is better prior art. A key feature is that the "firewall" implements a full TCP/IP stack and the decisions are made the application level.

Hmmm.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15674869)

Maybe I should just go ahead and try patenting the Navy. Something about nautical defense and such...

Re:Hmmm.... (1)

Javaxtreme (646370) | about 8 years ago | (#15674920)

Seems rather curious that this should come up shortly after the mention of patenting software. I wonder if this is an indication of a soon to be trend in IT as a whole.

Re:Hmmm.... (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | about 8 years ago | (#15675062)

"I wonder if this is an indication of a soon to be trend in IT as a whole."

The way that I see it, it already is a trend. There are more and more junk patents out there that exist for the sole purpose of lawsuits. There are companies whose entire property is IP. They make money by sueing others when they feel that something conflicts with their incredibly broad claim.

Re:Hmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675127)

I like your sig, but the correct spelling is hangar. FYI!

Time to patent my own idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15674870)

I'm going to patent filing stupid patents, cant wait to sue everyone!

Re:Time to patent my own idea (2, Funny)

Trigun (685027) | about 8 years ago | (#15674932)

I'm going to patent old jokes. Just so I don't have to read that every time a patent story comes up on Slashdot.

....and? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15674873)

So, does this get thrown out under "prior art at any Best Buy" or "un-patently obvious"?

The Military Gets Patents? (4, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | about 8 years ago | (#15674889)

I would think that they don't really have a business purpose to do so since they don't sell a product and if anyone tried to sue the military over a patent the Government would just sieze the patent as being "vital to national security" or some such (I seem to recall that they can do that.)

Maybe it's a sad attempt to prove that they're on the cutting edge of technology by patenting some newfangled idea that the rest of us have been using for years? I guess they probably have some catching up to do since EDS has been "working" on their IT infrastructure for years (That's why their stock price fell by half and never recovered don't you know? Well that and lying about the revenues that were coming in from it...)

Might not be a bad thing? (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15674956)

Actually most of the time, the government does not seize patents. Not that they don't have the ability to, or that perhaps they don't just go ahead and infringe on them sometimes, but the military spends a lot of money buying stuff from contractors/vendors every year, because the vendor has a patent on stuff. If we were in the middle of World War III, the situation might be slightly different.

So if someone in the Navy really did have a novel idea, it's not hard to imagine that they might want to get it patented, just as a defensive measure.

My big question is: if the government patents something, wouldn't the invention automatically be in the public domain, provided that it wasn't classified? Normally all products produced by government employees in the course of their jobs are in the public domain, so I would think that a patent held by the Navy would be impossible to use aggressively.

In that situation -- assuming that's true, and the Navy can't collect royalties -- then having the Navy (or other government agencies) patent stuff might be a very good idea. For the small taxpayer expense that it takes to file and maintain the patent, the country might be saved millions of dollars a year of royalties and litigation costs.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (2, Informative)

tinkerghost (944862) | about 8 years ago | (#15675005)

It's cheaper to make a declaritory statement saying "This is public domain, this is how to do it, and this is why it works. Have a nice day, thank you."
The end result is it's public domain. Patented it costs 3-5 grand vs a PDF on a website.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 8 years ago | (#15675077)

Cheaper maybe but the Navy probably uses staff lawyers for the patent filing so the cost would be tiny. The truth is a patent does provide you better legal protection than any PDF on a website ever could.
I would vote for cheap insurance.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (1)

jerryasher (151512) | about 8 years ago | (#15675187)

Don't forget about Management by Resume. Many silly, inefficent, dollar wasting projects are committed because they will look better on a resume than the alternative. In this case which would you put on your resume?

A: Obtained patent on secure network firewall protocols valued at $3 billion
B: Researched secure network firewall stacks. Described implementation with publically available PDF?

Besides which, Navy attorneys are probably a sunk cost, therefore the cost of the patent itself is zero.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (1)

dwandy (907337) | about 8 years ago | (#15675342)

Navy attorneys are probably a sunk cost,
In some places the entire navy is sunk, not just the attorneys...though I think I prefer it your way.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (0, Offtopic)

devnullkac (223246) | about 8 years ago | (#15675183)

If we were in the middle of World War III, the situation might be slightly different.

Off-topic, but I suspect we're already there. Much has been done in the name of the global war on terror that makes patent infringement look like jay-walking.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (0, Offtopic)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15675298)

Much has been done in the name of the global war on terror that makes patent infringement look like jay-walking.
Only against foreigners, hippies, Arabs, political undesirables, and the U.S. citizenry in general. Obviously, a higher burden of proof is in order when it comes to infringing on the rights of defense-industry corporations.

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (1)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | about 8 years ago | (#15675274)

easily circumvented by firing the guy and then hiring a private firm to develop it (that private firm would just so happen to have just picked up the guy that gets fired)

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (3, Informative)

superid (46543) | about 8 years ago | (#15675317)

The Navy doesn't collect royalties, they collect license fees. Go here [] to browse some patents. If you license one of mine, I get a percentage of the fee :)

Re:Might not be a bad thing? (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | about 8 years ago | (#15675490)

Haven't you heard? This is the sequal, The Allies vs the "Axis of Evil!"

Kidding aside, your last two points are good ones.

Re:The Military Gets Patents? (2, Informative)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 8 years ago | (#15675017)

I asked a Navy guy about this. He gave two reasons that Navy researchers are encouraged to get patents:
1) To ensure that no one else can patent the same idea, and then charge the Navy for using it. Personally, I don't buy this, because the Navy could just establish a prior art database for these ideas to achieve the same effect.

2) Being able to license the technology to non-Navy industries. I.e., medical applications. This justification at least seems, albeit distasteful.

Re:The Military Gets Patents? (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 8 years ago | (#15675069)

It's a lot easier to establish prior art by pointing to a patent than in a self-maintained database. A self-maintained database of prior art that will actually hold up in court (proof of claimed dates, etc) is extremely difficult and it's actually easier to just patent something. Then you can just point to the date on your patent and no one can dispute that prior art (at least when trying to sink a patent with a later date), because those dates are maintained by a trusted and (technically) unbiased source - the USPTO.

Otherwise, you must go to extensive measures to prove that prior art document X was published on date Y.

Re:The Military Gets Patents? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 8 years ago | (#15675125)

Perhaps a Notary Public could simply stamp something like that with the date?

Re:The Military Gets Patents? Why distasteful? (1)

erbmjw (903229) | about 8 years ago | (#15675471)

Not all licences from government patents are for medical industries - some(many) go to other industries; i.e. entertainment, communications, energy, etc

It may be better in some cases that the Navy(or some other government department) own a patent rather put it into the public domain. If it's in the public domain there is no control on it but if it's patented and licensed then their is a measure of control. Some government non-exclusive licenses are based primarily on proper (and/or limited) usage of the device/concept rather on straight monetary gain.

Re:The Military Gets Patents? (1)

surprise_audit (575743) | about 8 years ago | (#15675038)

their stock price fell by half

And having some crack-smoking Wall Street analyst "accidentally" downgrade EDS stock is completely irrelevant, right?? After all, he *did* apologise *after* the stock tumbled, but somehow "wups, didn't mean it" just doesn't cut it.

How to take action? (1)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | about 8 years ago | (#15675313)

Maybe it's a sad attempt to prove that they're on the cutting edge of technology by patenting some newfangled idea that the rest of us have been using for years?

That being said, how does one submit prior art for this application? This thing really needs to die last Tuesday.

Ah HA! (3, Funny)

Mayhem178 (920970) | about 8 years ago | (#15674893)

My Sorceress on Diablo II has prior art. She can lay down Firewalls like it's no one's business!

Wait, what's this about networks?

Re:Ah HA! (1)

HaydnH (877214) | about 8 years ago | (#15675332)

Networking [] ... that's the role playing part of the game isn't it?

I was... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15674903)

I was unaware that the US could patent anything! I thought the government had no IP rights, such as the ability to copyright or patent things. I guess I was wrong?

Re:I was... (4, Informative)

C-Shalom (969608) | about 8 years ago | (#15675157)

The government has patented numerous things.
The link below is just one of those things.
NSA PCMCIA Card Connector []
Here is a page [] about how the NSA specifically creates and licenses these technologies and invention to the public.

Your tax dollars at work, helping to generate more revenue with those tax dollars.

Re:I was... (1)

utopianfiat (774016) | about 8 years ago | (#15675214)

You know, you kind of have to be proud of them in that respect, considering how much money we're wasting on everything else. It's good to see that we're getting marginally more bang for our buck in the NSA.

Government patents are usually made public domain (3, Interesting)

ohearn (969704) | about 8 years ago | (#15675432)

As a project lead for the Army at an installation that does a lot of R&D, when we patent something 1 of 3 things happen to it. 1) We grant rights to the patent to someone in industry to produce the produce on a large scale for us. 2) (more common) We just transfer the patent to the company that will produce the product for the military. Personally I think #1 is a better option, but #2 happens a lot. 3) The patent becomes public domain, and the military never has to worry about being sued over licensing issues from someone else developing the technology.

Like it or not... (3, Interesting)

mrjb (547783) | about 8 years ago | (#15674915)

The US government might actually be entitled to many internet patents, as all or most of the technology behind the (early) internet was financed with U.S. tax payer money. Which, in a democratic country, should (but not necessarily does) mean that those patents are in the public domain.

Re:Like it or not... (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 8 years ago | (#15675056)

The US government might actually be entitled to many internet patents

I think you mean would have been entitled, back in the 1970s. Since we're well past the 1-year deadline for filing patents on technology that's been revealed to the public, nobody is entitled to patents on that stuff anymore. (Of course, today the USPTO would probably gladly hand out patents on the Internet's fundamentals anyway, but that's another matter.)

Re:Like it or not... (1)

fury88 (905473) | about 8 years ago | (#15675181)

I was thinking the exact same thing. This actuall isn't a bad idea for the US Gov't to start hording patents.

I may be wrong, but (2, Interesting)

michaelvkim (981938) | about 8 years ago | (#15674921)

isn't the US Government not allowed to have any IP rights?

IP = Intellectual Property

Re:I may be wrong, but (1)

romka1 (891990) | about 8 years ago | (#15675013)

Have you head what some of the ppl in the US government are saying?
They don't have any "Intellectual Property"

Re:I may be wrong, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675052)

Shouldn't be anybody NDFNRF not avoiding double negatives?

NDFNRF = not disallowed for not refrain from

Re:I may be wrong, but (1)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | about 8 years ago | (#15675076)

Actually, they already have a patent for the process to produce toxic ricin.
From Wikipedia:
The process for creating ricin is well-known, in part because a patent was granted for it in 1952. The inventors named in US Patent 3,060,165 (granted October 23, 1962) "Preparation of Toxic Ricin", assigned to the U.S. Secretary of the Army, are Harry L. Craig, O.H. Alderks, Alsoph H. Corwin, Sally H. Dieke, and Charlotte Karel.
So, yeah, it seems the gov't can patent stuff.

Hmmm (1)

Boo5000. (732797) | about 8 years ago | (#15674927)

In a communication system having a plurality of networks...?

A plurality in what sense? If I operate many networks I can only use this firewall if I have more networks than everyone else I know?

Re:Hmmm (1)

Halo1 (136547) | about 8 years ago | (#15674948)

Plurality also means "the fact or state of being plural". That phrasing is standard patent speak when you mean "several".

Re:Hmmm (1)

Boo5000. (732797) | about 8 years ago | (#15674961)

Nevermind. I guess my civics classes didn't stress alternative definitions.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 8 years ago | (#15675172)

A plurality in what sense?

If you ever get involved in applying for a patent, you'll find that patent attorneys always apply a standard set of text filters to your documentation to transform it into a patent application (followed by conversion to Courier font). One of these filters is the regular expression: s/(\w+s\b)/a plurality of \1/.

Government patents? (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 8 years ago | (#15674929)

Instinctively, I hate the notion of the government patenting anything. It might be because it seems ridiculous that anything the taxpayers paid for should be made unavailable to them. But... I can't find anything in the constitution that makes this abhorent practice illegal or unjustified. My reaction seems motivated by civic virtue rather than a legal basis.

Does anyone know of a solid legal reason that the government shouldn't be able to obtain patents?

Re:Government patents? (2, Insightful)

zeoslap (190553) | about 8 years ago | (#15674976)

Just because you patent something doesn't mean that it becomes unavailable; it just prevents someone else from patenting it. So as long as the government allows free use of its inventions there really isn't a problem with this at all.

Re:Government patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15674993)

If it already exists as documentable prior art then it cannot be patented. So why is the Navy interested in taking out a patent?

Re:Government patents? (1)

bit01 (644603) | about 8 years ago | (#15675326)

Well, it could spark an arms race where everybody loses except the patent mafia.

If the government is patenting then other players will feel the need to patent simply as a preemptive defensive measure in case the government changes it's mind and starts charging. Just like has already happened with public universities. Meaning the players will want to cross-license. Could create idea ghettos and major market distortion. Not to mention bureacratic overhead.

To break a competitive vicious circle like this you have to change the rules so people compete positively with improved product, not negatively with legal manipulation dragging down the competition.


Like software, intellectual property law is a product of the mind, and can be anything we want it to be. Let's get it right.

Re:Government patents? (1)

mkosmo (768069) | about 8 years ago | (#15674983)

Exactly. Considering everything the US government does is taxpayer funded. Especially since if you develop something while you work at a company, they have full rights to it, doesnt that mean since the government is paid for and works for us, the taxpayers, that we own the patent rights? The US Government, or any government for that matter, owning intellectual property is just like any secretive government. The Third Reich owned IP, the Communist regimes in China have owned IP and restricted its release, the Soviets, etc. I hope I am not the only person who sees this convern.

Re:Government patents? (1)

weffew... (954080) | about 8 years ago | (#15675033)

Uh... So if the US develops the H-bomb, you should be allowed access to the IP? I thought not. The thing I find concerning about the story is that there's prior art.... so why should such a patent be granted at all? Wef.

Re:Government patents? (1)

sarlos (903082) | about 8 years ago | (#15675034)

I think you are the only one that sees it *as* a concern for the united states. As is mentioned every time the black evil of government owning patents comes up, it acts to prevent others from patenting it and making loads of money off tax-payer funded research. If the government ever starts trying to restrict people from using government-owned patents, they have stepped beyond their bounds and are accountable to us, the people. This is the primary difference between the United States and the regimes you mentioned -- those regimes had no accountability to their people as they are/were totalitarian in nature.

Re:Government patents? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675058)

Considering everything the US government does is taxpayer funded.

Surely not everything? For example, I thought that most of the work of writing new laws was paid for privately by corporations and lobby groups. :P

Re:Government patents? (1)

jamestheprogrammer (932405) | about 8 years ago | (#15675044)

Now, wait a minute. How do you know the Navy isn't going to allow others to use their patent? Maybe they are just getting that patent to protect themselves from licensing fees of other companies who might otherwise claim such a patent in the future? I can't see the Navy actually taking someone to court for "damages" - I mean, seriously, does the Navy make a profit off of commercially selling firewalls?

May be a good premption strategy. (1)

Tungbo (183321) | about 8 years ago | (#15675054)

If the government patents an invention funded by our tax dollars, it would
prevent others coming along later to claim it as their own.
There would be no need to fight about prior arts and such.
As long as it's freely licensed, this could be a good thing.

Government patents belong to you! (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | about 8 years ago | (#15675063)

If you're of the opinion that elections are basically a big job interview where the public is a very large panel of interviewers who select the persons for the jobs of public office. That office being contained within the cubicles and corridors MyCountry inc. And the shareholders (taxpayers) through their selected representitives steer the corporations policy as desired. Then, when Mycountry inc. or one of it's wholly owned subsiduarys (MyArmy inc.) files for, and is granted, IP, that IP belongs to the Company as a whole, and the major shareholders get to decide what projects to put that IP towards. And being a one-shareholder-one-vote system everyone get's equal status, standing and therefore equale share of and use of the IP rights.


Two possible justifications (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 8 years ago | (#15675081)

I can only several reasons that the government patenting something might be fair:

1) If a non-American entity (person, company, etc.) wants to use the technology, then it would basically be the American people selling the right to use the patented technology to non-Americans. In that way, Americans, who funded the research, win.

2) In some sense, something that benefits the Navy does benefit Americans in general. When the Navy licenses a patented technology to a private company, this (hopefully) causes some money to move from that private entity to a public one (the U.S. govt.) That basically co-funds something that all taxpayers were having to chip in on the payment of (that is, the cost of government / national defense).

3) Suppose that even if a technology has been made available for free, no one can afford to commercialize it if more than one company will be doing the commercialization. This might happen, for example, if the market is very small. For example, if there are just two competitors and 10 companies that might build the device, then each of those 10 companies facies great risk. So granting an exclusive license to use the patented technology could be the only way to get even one company to build the device in that situation.

Re:Two possible justifications (2, Interesting)

forrestt (267374) | about 8 years ago | (#15675171)

The main reason government entities patent technology is not so they can then profit from them, but rather to give credit to the people that worked to develop that technology. Since civil servants and military personnel are not allowed to profit from inventions they create while working for the government, the patent must be owned by the organization they work for (in this case the US Navy). This prevents the civil servants/military personnel from profiting off the technology, but gives them the credit, something they can use for promotion or future job searches. To some degree this also applies to government contractors.

Re:Government patents? (2, Informative)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 8 years ago | (#15675094)

I can't find anything in the constitution that makes this abhorent practice illegal or unjustified.

Here it is, in Article I, section 8:

"Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

Re:Government patents? (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 8 years ago | (#15675114)

My misunderstanding, I thought you meant the govt issuing patents at all, instead of the Govt taxpayer funded agencies like the Navy obtaining patents. Sorry.

Re:Government patents? (1)

RandomGuySteve (889617) | about 8 years ago | (#15675465)

Just because someone has a patent on something doesn't mean its not freely available. IANAL, but I think that a patent holder may make something available for public use, by not requiring royalties. I think this is what Benjamin Franklin did with the efficient stove he invented, and other devices too, but I am not sure. A government patent could ensure that no one else patented the same idea, and thus save the public the ensuing royalty payments.

I'm not saying that the patent system is flawless, and I agree with the spirit of the parent. I'm saying that there might be a purpose to a government patent.

Kabooom! (4, Funny)

955301 (209856) | about 8 years ago | (#15674930)

I can't wait to see how they deliver the cease and desist orders.

Re:Kabooom! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675188)

haaahahahahahhaa o man thats so funny

Prior art (1)

mogrify (828588) | about 8 years ago | (#15674934)

Shouldn't be a problem... the means of implementing a system such as the one described have been public knowledge since about 1989 - so, forever, or just about.

Errr... (4, Insightful)

sarlos (903082) | about 8 years ago | (#15674946)

I may be thinking of something else, but it sounds more like a method of keeping secure information on the secure network, not allowing it to leak to the unsecure network, while still allowing data to cross from the unsecure side to the secure side... From their description, it's based on a pump architecture:
[0026] Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown in one embodiment of the present invention a high-level schematic of a communication network system 100 having a first communication network 102 having a first level of security or level of trust "x", and a second communication network 104 having a second level of security "y", where y

Re:Errr... (1)

sarlos (903082) | about 8 years ago | (#15674973)

The quote got cut off, I should learn to hit that preview button...

[0026] Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown in one embodiment of the present invention a high-level schematic of a communication network system 100 having a first communication network 102 having a first level of security or level of trust "x", and a second communication network 104 having a second level of security "y", where y is greater than x. Data communication between first and second networks 102, 104 is enabled through a network interface system 106. The network interface system 106 is also alternatively referred to herein as network pump 106 or computer system/server 106 for ease of convenience in better explaining the inventive concept. A preferred communications path for data is from a network with lower trust/lower level of security to a network with higher trust/higher level of security. The network pump 106 may be conveniently implemented in a computer system, a computer server, an application specific integrated circuit, or the like. Further details of the network pump 106 are described at FIG. 3.

Re:Errr... (4, Informative)

Grant,thompson (985589) | about 8 years ago | (#15675008)

It really is a method to allow information to flow between secure and insecure networks without creating security leaks (as you mentioned). Here is an article published by some of the inventors: 1998kang-IEEE.pdf [] Also remember, this was filed for in 2003.

Re:Errr... (2, Informative)

simong_oz (321118) | about 8 years ago | (#15675292)

This is in the DESCRIPTION of the patent. What they are actually (trying) to patent (this is a patent application, not a granted patent) is detailed in the CLAIMS. These are what you need to read, carefully, and probably with advice from a patent attorney.

Once a patent application has been published (usually at 12/18 months after filing), it then gets passed on to the patent office in each country to be examined. It is entirely possible that a patent has got to this stage without anyone "official" actually doing any kind of search for proior art or examination of the claims. There may have been an international search report, but this still doesn't mean that much.

Re:Errr... (1)

IPFreely (47576) | about 8 years ago | (#15675339)

Yep, that's about it. This is not about blocking the flow of network traffic, it's about tracking documents with varying levels of security attached.

The Navy, along with many other government agencies, tracks secrecy of certain information by grades: Classified, Secret, Top Secret (or some such arrangement). If you create a new document and it includes some information from a classified document and some information from a Top Secret document, the new document is graded as Top Secret due to the most secure level of information included.

What the Navy appears to be doing is they have two networks that are graded at two levels, say Top Secret and Classified. The Top Secret network should be able to get inforamtion from the Classified network (or in the language of the patent, the Classified network can pass information to the Top Secret network), but the the Classified network should never be able to get information from the Top Secret network. The information in question is not about packets, it's about the information in the documents. It's a document and information handling system.

Now, something like this might be implemented like a firewall (as a controlled port between the systems) but it would be much more effective if it was imbedded in the whole document handeling and transfer software from the ground up. It's the difference between having a firewall, and having all applications exposed to the network be secure.

So it's not a firewall per se. Bruce jumped the gun and didn't understand the purpose of the patent.

In other news... (2, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | about 8 years ago | (#15674962)

...ZoneAlarm patents sonar & stealth marine technology

It's really "multilevel security" (3, Interesting)

hmbcarol (937668) | about 8 years ago | (#15674975)

The Holy Grail when I worked with military networks (admittedly 10 years ago) was "multilevel security" which could enable a "top secret" and "secret" network to coexist and share data in a very controlled way. Information can go up, but never down. The hard part is how do you receive mail or do other things which require a two-way protocol? We built boxes which could sit in the middle and could pass messages. This appears to be a more advanced version of that.

Re:It's really "multilevel security" (1)

kdemetter (965669) | about 8 years ago | (#15675327)

i just got a deja-vu from reading your post.


The future of warfare (3, Funny)

StreamCipher (986418) | about 8 years ago | (#15674979)

intellectual property lawyers will fight wars in courtrooms.

Countries possessing patents of mass destruction (PMD) will be sanctioned first, and later sued by the Air Force.

If other countries think we kick ass now, wait until they meet our legions of lawyers.

US Navy Stock Price Up (4, Funny)

Van Cutter Romney (973766) | about 8 years ago | (#15674991)

USNVY - 23.40 +1.40

Haven't read the patent (1)

Ana10g (966013) | about 8 years ago | (#15674997)

If I were to conjecture here, the Navy has a very large problem in that it uses a large number of networks, which traditionally haven't been connected, due to security reasons (the most sensitive data is stored on unconnected networks). The problem has been that, to get information properly, an operator must have multiple terminals. I think that the intent is not necessarily to patent the firewall, but more to patent a trusted solution to allow interconnectivity between the different networks, allowing people to read down, and send information up.

Might stop patent trolling (2, Insightful)

buzdale (943806) | about 8 years ago | (#15674998)

By patenting the firewall the Navy may stop those companies that seem to patent things solely to send you extortion notes for licensing. Typically the federal gov't can't/doesn't license them. Since they are taxpayer funded they seem to be "Ours." Actually there are a lot of patents that I wish they had. Anyone know for sure if this will essentially place the firewall patent in the public domain?

It's all in the claims (broad vs. specific) (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 8 years ago | (#15675014)

From what I've read of the actual patent so far, it appears that it is a very specific implementation of a specific type of firewall.

See claim 3 for example - What they are describing implies a machine with two dedicated processors with shared memory, one for each network. Note that for what they are describing, a typical SMP or dual core system does NOT count - It seems that they are effectively describing two seperate machines in one box that can communicate via shared memory.

Also other claims imply that the patented system will be talking to each network at the application level, so it's more of a special form of proxy server rather than a firewall.

I don't have time right now to read further details, but keep in mind that even specific patents can appear much broader than they are in the abstract. For example, one can't patent the wheel or a tire, but when patenting a tire with a specific tread pattern, it might appear in the abstract that the applicant is trying to patent the tire in general even when they're not.

Re:It's all in the claims (broad vs. specific) (1)

geoffspear (692508) | about 8 years ago | (#15675105)

How dare you attempt to bring an actual understanding of how patents work to a discussion of patents?!

This is Slashdot, where a patent on a device that cures every known type of cancer by pushing a button is obviously invalid because I had a device with a button on it YEARS ago.

jesus harold christ. (2, Informative)

hamburger lady (218108) | about 8 years ago | (#15675027)

i love it. "the navy patents the firewall!!!one!". and they include a link to a Patent Application.

here's a tip: an application aint a patent.

Re:jesus harold christ. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675412)

In a sense it is... Once you apply you are protected for a certain period of time.

Possibly just a new twist to an old idea? (1)

pdub56 (962522) | about 8 years ago | (#15675042)

I don't see this as a PR stunt, its just bilious. VLANs and Firewalls already exist, but maybe the navy has found something more secure. If they have, wonderful. I just wonder how they can patent something thats seems to just be an upgrade instead of a new idea.

Re:Possibly just a new twist to an old idea? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 8 years ago | (#15675135)

Upgrades are patentable, as long as they contain a new, non-obvious element. The patent claims will be limited by prior art, which might make the claims so narrow as to be worthless. But they can still be valid claims.

Example: Imaging being the first to look at umbrellas and think "Hey, I'm going to add a loop on the handle to help carry it." The function of the umbrella is still the same. But by adding the new element, you have something patentable. Now your patent can only prevent people from putting a loop on umbrellas. All other designs are fair game for anyone. But if that loop turns out to be a great boon to humanity (because people are tired of holding umbrellas the conventional way), it may be very narrow but valuble. And your umbrella company may become rich. But it's still just an upgrade. And protectable.

Will they patent the non-blank password next? (1)

Seraphnote (655201) | about 8 years ago | (#15675043)

Good. Now that they've invented the firewall, MAYBE they'll share this newfound knowledge with other parts of the US gov't, AND they all can start securing their networks.

It is no wonder Washington has been pressuring London to send that poor guy over here so they could ruin his life. I mean if they didn't know firewalls existed, they probably don't know what a non-blank password is either!

Warning! (5, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 8 years ago | (#15675067)

To all of you shooting from the hip: STOP! You're just making a fool of yourself.
Read the claims. Read them in light of the description of the patent. And learn patent terminology. Then you can make some general statements. And if it's only a publication (like this navy one), not a patent, don't even bother with that.
If you must draw a conclusion, and you're sure this is about a firewall, then at least go the step to know they are claiming a type of firewall. Which is perfectly legit (as long as it contains a new, non-obvious element). If you think otherwise, go learn about patents, come back, and then we'll talk.

PS:plurality is a very common patent term. It means more than one (duh!). Not even worth making a comment about, but someone felt compelled to jabber about it.

Re:Warning! (1)

simong_oz (321118) | about 8 years ago | (#15675333)

Most insightful post on this thread. I couldn't agree more. Every time there is a patent story on slashdot your post should be automatically linked at the top.

For security classification boundries? (1)

bchernicoff (788760) | about 8 years ago | (#15675071)

Trusted Computer Solutions has a product called Trusted Gateway [] that allows for one-way transfer of files from a lower classification network to a higher one such as transfers from the Unclass NIPRNET to the Secret SIPRNET. It can be configured to allow specific status messages to come back down so you know files have made it through. I am working on a large project at the Air Force Weather Agency to ugrade their "data pipe".

Does Marcus J. Ranum know about this (2, Informative)

rs232 (849320) | about 8 years ago | (#15675073)

Marcus J. Ranum .. is recognized as the inventor [] of the proxy firewall, and the implementor of the first commercial firewall product.

Illegal Searches (1)

RapidDemon (869604) | about 8 years ago | (#15675086)

This will certainly make those illegal searches easier, when the only way to have a firewall is to license it from the Navy.

Nice try, but... (0, Offtopic)

DrKC9N (895806) | about 8 years ago | (#15675111)

Al Gore patented it already.

This just in! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675128)

The Navy patents the Army!

Government patents are nothing new... (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | about 8 years ago | (#15675129)

The government, when faced with the failure of the Clipper chip and seeing the coming tide of encryption, saw the value of patenting. They, specifically NSA, needed a way to always be able to crack encryption so they patented DES. No need for a backdoor!

US Government Body cannot Patent or copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15675199)

A US Government body cannot Patent or copyright. They only thing that they can do is to make it "secret", "top secret", or place it under the guise of national security.

EDS Wins Contract for Firewall Developmemt... (1)

infosec_spaz (968690) | about 8 years ago | (#15675239)

So, They will award the contract to develop a new firewall to EDS, and the project will run 60 billion dollars and 5 years over budget...sorry, if anyone has worked on the joint USMC/USN portal project, you will see the humor in this :o)

Trusted networks (1)

oglueck (235089) | about 8 years ago | (#15675341)

How much do you trust a network or rather the users and programs on that network? Experience showed us that there is no such thing as a trusted network. Corporate intranets are suddenly pentrated by laptops, WIFI and other mobile devices. SSH tunnels create unmonitorable connections to the outside world. Email and Webdownloads create other holes. So again, how can anybody define "trust" in a network, or even a "network" in the first place?

Export Licence (1)

the.mutts.nuts (107159) | about 8 years ago | (#15675441)

I hear the Chinese are looking for a new vendor...

What if I break their rights? (1)

houghi (78078) | about 8 years ago | (#15675458)

What are they going to do? Them and what army? And even if, I am in another country. Ha!

That doesn't sound like a Firewall to me... (1)

BeProf (597697) | about 8 years ago | (#15675470)

That sounds more like a secure gateway system that will allow "regular" military networks to talk to "trusted" military networks while still maintaining the required level of separation between the two. An application of which would be to allow inteligence gathered off of the web (or other public network) to be quickly and easily transferred to a secure network for analysis.

I mean TFA itself says that this is for an *application layer* protocol stack, not transport layer port blocking or network layer address translation (although presumably both of those things would also be going on).
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