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How Do I Secure An IP, While Leaving Options Open?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the i-suggest-tacks dept.

Patents 281

Tiger4 writes "Let's say I have a photograph, or a television script, or have finally perfected the water-to-gasoline conversion process, or some other piece of non-software but copywritable or patentable IP. I know I want it secured in my name, on this date, in a provable and verifiable way. But being an Open Source, free-to-the world sort of person, I'm willing to share my knowledge to the world, as long as all credit points unambiguously to me. Any attempts at theft could, would, and must be immediately rebuffed by my offer of proof from when I first secured the IP. What, if any, tool or method is available to me in the digital world? MD5 and the like are available to show that copied files are the same as the original source, but they don't show time of authorship unambiguously. The same with Public Key crypto. I could lock it up with a time stamp, but what prevents me from faking the stamp that locks the file? Is there a way to homestead a little chunk of time with my IP's name on it?"

cancel ×

281 comments

IPsec? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429215)

The suit version of it, that is.

Logical solution... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429277)

...Lick my balls. That's how you secure an IP. Or, you idiot, use a firewall.

(One modpoint wasted, nine more to go before I sleep.)

Use a digital timestamping service (3, Informative)

Sanity (1431) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429221)

Such as this one [itconsult.co.uk] .

I found this in 30 seconds through Google, did you even look before submitting your question to Slashdot?

Re:Use a digital timestamping service (2, Informative)

namelok (1144211) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429375)

look at Numly.com it offers such a service

Re:Use a digital timestamping service (3, Funny)

gr3kgr33n (824960) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429413)

Just to bring to your attention, I think this Article was submitted by Slashdot's automatic journal News Submission IP Stealing evil monkey with a big stick hiding in the closet waiting to get.... er, I digress... I think...

What planet was I on again?

Chain it to a lawyer. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429227)

There ya go.

Copyright Office. (4, Informative)

bluephone (200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429229)

This is surprisingly simple. If it's a copyrightable and you have $45, register the copyright of the work with the US Copyright office (or the copuyright office in your country, I assume you're in the US because I'm an Americentric bastard). Check out http://www.copyright.gov/register/ [copyright.gov] for forms and details. A registered copyright strengthens your argument of ownership immeasurably. It raises the bar of proof that any opposition must overcome to disprove your ownership. If it's IP, I'm in the camp that it's covered by copyright, and hate IP patents, but if it's patentable like software (grumble grumble) then it's somewhere around $500 to apply to the patent office yourself. If it's that valuable to you that you genuinely fear theft, then $500 is a small price to pay for insurance.

Re:Copyright Office. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429289)

Maybe it's simpler than all that. Ask yourself, "What would Linus do?"

Re:Copyright Office. (3, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429339)

register the copyright of the work with the US Copyright office (or the copuyright office in your country, I assume you're in the US because I'm an Americentric bastard).

Which is probably why you don't realise that most other countries don't have a copyright registration system.

Re:Copyright Office. (4, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429421)

In case you're unclear, copyrights are automatic in the US. But filing your work makes your life immeasurably easier if there is ever a dispute.

This is one of those few government services I believe to be legitimate.

-Peter

Re:Copyright Office. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429659)

Which is probably why you don't realise that most other countries don't have a copyright registration system.
Because countries than the U.S. use either notaries or the U.S. Copyright Office.

Notarys... (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429507)

This is exactly the sort of thing public notarys are for.

You give them a piece of paper, they sign it and keep a copy. If you ever have to go to court they appear as a witness with their copy of the paper.

Re:Notarys... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429645)

Notaries do not keep a copy of what they sign

Re:Notaries... (4, Informative)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429749)

Notaries do not keep a copy of what they sign

I think this is a state by state thing. I was a notary in Vermont for a few years and I did not keep a copy of what I notarized. I did log the signings that I did, for my own benefit, but there was nothing in the laws governing notaries saying I would have to do so. Basically, the laws in Vermont said that if you notarize something without using proper diligence to make sure that the person signing the document is actually who they say they are, you'd be liable. So it was in the notary's best interest to only accept official identification and try and spot counterfeit ID. However, unless there was a problem, nobody came around to check these things. I just had to swear to the state that I wouldn't knowingly notarize false documents.

Re:Notarys... (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429671)

In addition, you can request a copy be placed in the records/archives at the courthouse.

When I was discharged from the Marine Corps, I took my DD-214 paperwork to my county courthouse, requested a couple of certified copies and that a copy be held in the archive. It cost a few dollars, (about $15 if I remember right), but a few days later I got my original copy, my certified copies, and a notice that a copy had been archived. I'm not sure if they will do it for non-government paperwork, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Use your lawyer (3, Informative)

bpjk (305635) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429231)

Send registered mail to your lawyer which contains inside a sealed, timestamped envelope with your stuff in it (digitally or dead-tree based) and instruct your lawyer to store it somewhere safe.

When you;re fighting copyers, you can have this opened in the presence of a lawayer or court, have everything verified and checked and then have it re-sealed in the same venue and have all proceedings officially recorded.

Re:Use your lawyer (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429373)

Better yet, have the lawyer prepare a formal disclosure document (or do it yourself). A simple thing that says what your IP is, gets signed by two people with some competency in the general area of your IP, and gets notarized. This documents at least three people able to put the information in your possession at a specific time. Courts like dated, physical evidence.

Re:Use your lawyer (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429567)

Better yet, have the lawyer prepare a formal disclosure document (or do it yourself). A simple thing that says what your IP is, gets signed by two people with some competency in the general area of your IP, and gets notarized. This documents at least three people able to put the information in your possession at a specific time. Courts like dated, physical evidence.


You could just get a registered copyright for significantly less than the combined fees of the attorney and notary here, which would also provide dated, physical evidence.

Re:Use your lawyer (2, Informative)

JMLang (833136) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429609)

What the parent describes is a concept commonly called the "poor man's patent," and it doesn't work nearly as well as legend would suggest.

If you want to protect the functional aspects of your idea (i.e. things within the realm of patents) rather than just the way you expressed it in code (copyright only protects the form of expression, not the how-it-works aspects), then look up "Statutory Invention Registrations" with the US Patent and Trademark Office. They're relatively inexpensive and will act as prior art to anyone subsequently trying to patent exactly the same thing. There are also commercial services that provide similar services for creating so-called "defensive publications."

Re:Use your lawyer (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429715)

IF you can afford your lawyers time, I'd say this method is far from "Poor man's ..." anything. Though I completely agree with you that proper copywrite channels should be persued, a dated envelope with a reputable lawyer attesting to its authenticity should be pretty solid. This is NOT to be confused with something such as sending yourself a certified letter.

copyright (0, Redundant)

SEAL (88488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429239)

If it's a copyrightable work, you automatically have the copyright to it. But if you want additional peace of mind, file with the copyright office so you have official documentation and a date associated with it. I'm speaking from a U.S.-centric viewpoint, of course.

Re: trademark (1)

SEAL (88488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429265)

In addition to copyright, you might look into registering a trademark if applicable. That's getting into a question better suited for your lawyer, though.

Post your ideas on Slashdot! (5, Funny)

poopie (35416) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429249)

Post your idea on slashdot. All posts have a timestamp.

Awesome (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429309)

Ran out of mod points earlier so here is my idea...

I think a news collector/ comment allowing website in the slashdot model should assign moderation points but let the user choose when to activate them, subject to predefined rules that would prevent the usage of so many points over a given time span or used in a single article.

Remember you heard it from me first as the time stamp shows. Tune in next week for the secret to free energy, and world peace. That is all.

Email (1)

frizz (91565) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429257)

Email the IP to several people on several different ISPs. The timestamps on gmail or yahoo as well as other witnesses would build some evidence for your cause.

Post (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429259)

Apparently you can (used to be able to?) mail yourself a copy of the design / code / idea etc.. registered post, that will get you a nice date stamped master to use if you need to, (I think you may be better mailing it to your solicitor and asking them to hold it) don't open it when you get it back though.

Might have been an old wives tale though.

Although realistically if it is a major find you should be grabbing a solicitor and filing your idea in whatever manner is appropriate.

This is not legal advice and IANAL.

Re:Post (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429291)

Old wives' tale, so far as I know. Never seen it from a credible source, and the only people I've seen do it were the sorts of people who believe crazy legal theories and then get very sad.

I asked my lawyer once, he told me it was stupid and accomplished nothing.

Re:Post (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429333)

Fair enough. I can bin that filing cabinet full of envelopes then.

Re:Post (1)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429395)

Yeah, think about this: how can you prove the envelope was sealed, and contained it's present contents, when you mailed it? If this worked, you could just mail yourself an empty, unsealed envelope tomorrow, and then 15 years from now you could stick whatever you wanted in it and seal it.

Arrested Development (1)

rkanodia (211354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429561)

From the pilot episode:

Michael is visiting his father, George, who has been arrested for SEC violations. George is eager to explain to Michael why he chose his wife, an alcoholic layabout, to be the new CEO of his company, instead of his hardworking son.
George Sr.:They cannot charge a husband and wife for the same crime!
Michael: That's not true.
George Sr.: Really?
Michael: Yep.
George Sr.: I got the worst fucking attorneys.

Re:Post (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429367)

Apparently you can (used to be able to?) mail yourself a copy of the design / code / idea etc.. registered post, that will get you a nice date stamped master to use if you need to, (I think you may be better mailing it to your solicitor and asking them to hold it) don't open it when you get it back though. ...

This is not legal advice and IANAL.


Clearly not. This is known as "poor man's copyright", and is generally considered to be useless (due to the fact that it's trivially easy to game the system to claim earlier authorship than really happened: just send yourself an empty, unsealed envelope, then later put whatever you want in it).

Re:Post (2, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429653)

While I agree with your statement that mailing yourself an envelope is useless, I don't think you could easily do what you said.

Every time I remember sending a registered mail, the post office stamped ink across the seams of the envelope - presumably to ensure that it wasn't opened.

But seriously, Slashdot is the worst place to get good legal advice. Yikes.

That said, there was a good article on the August 11th Talk of the Nation Science Friday called "What Inventors Need to Know". One of the guests emphasis was on securing a way to finance and market your idea rather than the actual protection of IP. But if you're really worried, he suggested getting a temporary patent for $100, which will cover you for a year.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2007/Aug/hour2_ 081707.html [sciencefriday.com]

Re:Post (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429697)

Make that August 17th.

Re:Post (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429469)

Post a classifieds add to a print newspaper with MD5/SHA512 hashes (the more the better) of your data file?

Mail is the way to go (1)

Retardical_Sam (1002763) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429261)

I've always been of the opinion that mail was the way to do this. When my band was worried about copyrights, we just burned a CD of our album, mailed it to ourselves and now we have the sealed copy with the mail timestamp should we ever need it. Note, however, I can't vouch for whether this is foolproof, it's just what I've been told.

Re:Mail is the way to go (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429337)

Told by whom?

Hint: The answer is almost certainly not "a lawyer". I am quite confident it is not "a competent lawyer".

Re:Mail is the way to go (1)

Retardical_Sam (1002763) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429495)

Told by a professional musician of over 20 years. Should be noted a Canadian one, and I'm Canadian too, if laws differ from the US.

Re:Mail is the way to go (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429575)

Professional musicians have a cargo-cult approach to legalities. I would NEVER, not in a million years, make a decision based on something a musician told me about the law. I've heard that same thing from dozens of musicians, NONE OF WHOM EVER WENT TO COURT.

Re:Mail is the way to go (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429489)

This is not the way to go. Read the other comments about how easy it is to fraud this strategy.
Just register with the copyright office. Fairly cheap, fairly easy, fairly fast.

Mail still cancels stamps with a date (0)

m0nkyman (7101) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429267)

Send it to yourself registered mail in a well sealed envelope....

Re:Mail still cancels stamps with a date (1)

Nick Mathewson (11078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429301)

Whoever told you to do this is wrong, and you should not take any more advice from them about copyright.

To learn why, do a google search on "poor man's copyright".

Re:Mail still cancels stamps with a date (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429325)

STOP POSTING RUMORS AS LEGAL ADVICE!

Find me a court case referring to such a thing, or an actual law, and I'll believe you. Otherwise, it's just a waste of a stamp.

Re:Mail still cancels stamps with a date (2, Informative)

Przepla (637674) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429537)

Well, it depends where the sender lives. It may help in the UK, or in the Netherlands, or in civil law countries.

Confer:

Re:Mail still cancels stamps with a date (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429723)

Every week, I send myself an unsealed envelope, registered mail. The post office thinks I'm weird, but when someone comes out with a cool idea, I write it up and stuff it in an old envelope and seal it...

Depending on where (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429273)

you may check for a "notarius publicus" or similar service too.

Patent it (5, Informative)

netruner (588721) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429275)

Just because you are the patent holder (contrary to popular practice) doesn't mean you have to be a jerk. You can hold a patent and then allow anyone to use the IP for whatever they want. Holding the patent doesn't mean that nobody else can use the IP, it just means that you set the rules for its use.

The downside is that getting a patent can be a bit expensive.

Ask a Lawyer (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429283)

Slashdot, contrary to what a lot of people on here believe, is not generally a particularly great place to seek legal advice.

Particularly considering you haven't stated which country you're in.

If the IP you want to protect is worth any serious quantity of money, then an hour or so of a lawyers time is a worthwhile investment.

Alternatively, if you're a cheapskate, I understand the traditional method was for authors to post themselves a copy but not open it. That way, if a dispute ever arose, there was a sealed envelope containing the work which a disinterested third party (the Post Office) had printed a date on.

Re:Ask a Lawyer (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429513)

You posted to suggest getting real legal advice, and offered and urban legend. Excellent!

Read the various posts above about all the fun ways to fraud the system of sending yourself a sealed envelope.

How about a Sharpie? (1)

bbk (33798) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429285)

Basically, you want a way to write your name on an idea/thing with indellible ink. Good luck on that. Computers don't even try to do this - I'm reminded of my OS class, where metadata (name, permissions, etc.) were separate from the actual file/folder.

Unless you embed your name in the material in some way it can't be removed (impossible if it's just an idea), you're out of luck. One way to do this would be from a branding/marketing perspective - think Coke, Kleenex, Xerox, etc. - if you can get the thing referred to as a "Zonk", then your name might stick.

Publsh it (3, Informative)

Tester (591) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429287)

Most of the scientific community works that way. When someone in a university discovers something, he wants the world to know about it, but most of the time, they are interested in making money from it. So they have scientific journals in which they publish. And then these are distributed and everyone knows where its from.. Now if you want to be famous, make sure you publish it in something that is widely read (like Slashdot! or Nature). And not on your own blog or some obscure scientific journal.

Then, if it's really worth it ... (1)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429465)

He could patent it within a year of public disclosure.

Re:Publsh it (0)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429515)

However, you have to patent it before publicly disclosing it anywhere: publications, talks, abstracts, posters. You can't become famous for something and not patent it while still "leaving options open".

The whole question seems a little misplaced. If you create something really important, receiving credit will take care of itself. If you create something unimportant, no one will be trying to take the credit away from you. If being famous is an end in itself, go on a reality show.

Re:Publsh it (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429711)

Publishing the idea seems to be a good idea. It would serve your purpose while being much cheaper than obtaining a patent on it, which could cost thousands if you have to hire an attorney. Furthermore, it would help you build your resume.

A side effect is that your article would be prior art against any other later inventor who tries to patent the same idea. Of course, you have to try to get published in a popular journal that the Patent Office would think an average inventor would look at. (Not Slashdot.)

Well, there's always copyleft... (1)

hitmanWilly1337 (1034664) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429305)

I'd say get a patent, and then create an open license, a la GPL, that way you actually have a legal footing to stand on if anyone ever tries to steal it.

Online timestamper (1)

Asgard (60200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429317)

If you need to unambiguously datestamp it, utilize a unbiased third party notary-like service such as http://www.itconsult.co.uk/stamper/stampinf.htm [itconsult.co.uk] to sign the detached signature of the material and publish that signature. By signing it yourself, you are showing that you possessed the material. Employing the third party to sign your detached signature of the material provides a reliable timestamp of when you possessed the material. A challenge could be met by providing the material along with the relevant signatures. Logically it makes perfect sense, but legally it might be harder to explain it to a judge/jury, or bring the owner of the site to come and attest to his methods.

Employing a real world Notary to witness you signing a copy of the material would probably be easier to get admitted in a legal process (IANAL), but that is outside your 'digital world' stipulation.

(The reliability of that third party signature is reinforced since the date/time is evident not only in the signature, but also the time at which it was posted to usenet, which is archived by various parties.)

Self addressed envelope, and 41cents... (-1, Redundant)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429321)

Print out the document, put it in a self addressed, sealed envelope, stick a stamp on it, and put it in the mail.

Re:Self addressed envelope, and 41cents... (0)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429409)

Mod this up..

As an alternative, mail it to your attorney.

A sealed envelope and a postmark will suffice as evidence in any US court.

Re:Self addressed envelope, and 41cents... (4, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429529)

Please don't mod up this urban legend. There are plenty of ways to fraud this, and no one can offer a court case that actually accepted this as proof.
http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp [snopes.com]

Call a notary (3, Informative)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429327)

If you don't have a personal lawyer and don't want to mess with the copyright office, you may also have a notary public [wikipedia.org] sign and date a printout of the document. Be sure that the law in your state allows notaries to act in that capacity; I don't think they can i New York, for example.

Advantages: cost and convenience - you might very well know one or have one on staff at your office.

Re:Call a notary (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429535)

or have one on staff at your office.

Do NOT do this with the office notary. You may introduce some ownership/conflict of interest issues.

Wrong solution for the problem (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429341)

Let's say I have a photograph, or a television script, or have finally perfected the water-to-gasoline conversion process, or some other piece of non-software but copywritable or patentable IP. I know I want it secured in my name, on this date, in a provable and verifiable way. But being an Open Source, free-to-the world sort of person, I'm willing to share my knowledge to the world, as long as all credit points unambiguously to me. Any attempts at theft could, would, and must be immediately rebuffed by my offer of proof from when I first secured the IP. What, if any, tool or method is available to me in the digital world?


The digital world is the wrong place to search for a solution. The simplest, most effective (though not, particularly in the case of patents, the cheapest) solution is to simply secure the appropriate legal registration of the IP (a registered copyright, a patent, etc.) and then offer the product under a no-cost license that requires credit and whatever other terms you want to impose.

(Since copyright is automatic, you can technically avoid registration and still be protected, but registration serves the documentation role you are looking for without any technical trickery, and copyright registration isn't particularly expensive.)

Just mail (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429345)

Mail it to yourself, using public servers. Do it from some different servers. They have to keep copies for years, with timestamps. You cannot easily falsify those. And the records in the mail servers have force of proof, as shown in some high-profile cases that I wont name here, basically because I dont remember them :-)

Re:Just mail (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429403)

Get in notarized, put it in a letter, sign over the flap, mail it to yourself.

Done.

Re:Just mail (4, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429565)

Not done.
http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp [snopes.com]

This solution is way too easy to fraud. As a simple example:

Have notary notarize several basically blank pages (fill in only as much as you need to convince a notary to mark it).
Mail an unsealed envelope to yourself.
Fill in your 'discovery' 'borrowed' from someone else on the notarized pages years later.
Stick in envelope, seal, sign over seal.

Done!

ATT did it this way... (1)

Tjp($)pjT (266360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429365)

Fado, fado , ... When ATT patented the SETUID Bit [uspto.gov] in the early mists of the middle ages of computer development they explicitly put the invention into the public domain. You can also publish (or get published) an article that details in enough clarity that a person skilled at the state of the art in the field could replicate the invention from your article. And in the article explicitly put the invention into the public domain. If you want to be a little less that free about the use of your invention, then include specific public licensing terms for the use of your invention without fee in the patent / article.

Patent route is safest as some officious staffer of the USPTO has given it a stamp of uniqueness attributed to you. Then never bother to pay additional fees after it grants... Unless you want the invention licensing restrictions you might place on it to remain in force.

Of course you could publish the idea to /. with appropriate detail in a long article and hope it gets published ... ;)

Why Not Just Publish? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429369)

Write an article for DDJ or Nature or something documenting your findings. I would think that would attach your name to the findings in such a way that you get credit for the work, while at the same time sharing your findings with the world.

Of course, if you want to turn a buck on the idea later on you should patent or copyright it and be a bastard. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Umm...I think you should (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429381)

Give half the rights of profit to the Yakuza. They will protect your property in the most effective way.

very complex question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429389)

A lot of posts here are just nonsense. Timestamping etc. offers no legal protection for some stuff, it's just evidence that will never be useful for some types of I.P. and in many jurisdictions.

The answer is it depends on the type of work and it dependo on the jurisdiction.

For patents, if you publish in most places you lose rights and in the USA the clock starts ticking (one year) then you lose rights.

Copyrights you may be on firmer ground with timestamps but you used to have to register them (no more at least in the) but that may vary outside the USA.

If you give people rights to use a copyright that would be a license.
To protect an invention you need to patent.

The simplest way in the U.S.A. to start a patent but do it cheaply and not fully file it but keep your options open and register your ownership of an idea would be to file a provisional patent, but at some stage you must follow through & file or drop it (and you could decide based on whether your ego was being stroked enough).

Copy writing is something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429391)

Please. Copyrights, the right to make copies. How hard can it be?

"Writing copy" is a term from advertising, meaning writing text to go into an advertisement.

So, no more copywriting/copywritten/copywrites please.

a "declaration of invention" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429393)

if the IP is patentable, you can apparently register a "declaration of invention" w/ the Patent Office in the US w/out going for the full protection of a patent. it's a defensive move: you say that you invented X on this date, so nobody else can patent it.

i have no idea how one goes about this, though.
      kieran hervold

How could this be a problem? (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429397)

You want anonymity. If you were to (re)discover how to run cars on water, the oil companies will either discredit you - making you look like a raving lunatic, or they would "disappear" you. The risk is greatly reduced with anonymity. I suggest you take your invention and file it away, or better yet - burn it!

You will receive no further warnings on this subject.

A patent (1)

Meor (711208) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429415)

You can give out what you own to anyone you want.

I've been thinking for a while... (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429425)

...about creating a simple system. It goes like this: you upload a document. It then returns a copy of the document with a datestamp and a cryptographic signature of both. You keep this signed copy for later reference.

Because the system is run by a third party with no interest in the ongoing litigation, it would likely be trusted by a court.

There's also a nontrivial chance it would earn the person who set it up some reasonable expert witness fees.

Re:I've been thinking for a while... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429559)

A cheaper way of effectively doing the same thing would be to, say, post a strong hash of the document to a usenet group somewhere. That stuff is archived like crazy by organizations who have no idea who you are.

If you feel like spending a little money, a classified ad in a major newspaper should serve the same function.

Re:I've been thinking for a while... (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429737)

A cheaper way of effectively doing the same thing would be to, say, post a strong hash of the document to a usenet
Of course, today's strong hash is tomorrow's weak hash.

Just post the document itself to Usenet.

publishing the MD5 in the wall street journal tho- (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429437)

shows the file existed- with that hash- on that date.....

kinda hard to reverse do from a has to the file then...

There's already a system in place (2, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429449)

I don't know why people are so resistent to simply registering a copyright. It's a simple form, costs less than $50, and a stamp. End of story. And you can't enforce a copyright in court without registering it first, nor is the court interested in anything but the registration as proof. And if you're not willing to enforce it in court, it doesn't matter what you are willing to do, because you can't enforce it.

Patents are considerably more complicated, of course, and more expensive, but again, the only thing the court will care about is the patent.

Does anybody have a patent on reinventing the wheel yet?

Two easy ways to date a document (1)

complexmath (449417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429473)

1. Send it via certified mail to yourself and leave the envelope sealed when it arrives.
2. Post it to Usenet.

There are other more official options as well, but both of these should be sufficient to associate a date with something.

Um, certified mail or lockbox? (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429491)

Send 3 copies, certified mail to yourself or your local bank which you have a safe deposit box with. Put sealed letters in the box. Never open it again until discovery when you sue. Problem solved.

Where are you right now? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429493)

I'll meet you to discuss how to secure your IP. Please bring all relevant documents, and don't tell anyone where you are going.

digistamp (1)

proteus421 (308880) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429497)

Seems like some people missed the point that you wanted a digital time stamp and did not want to snail mail for timestamping. Some others seemed to have not considered the burden of proving that the time in the stamp was accurate. http://digistamp.com/ [digistamp.com] seems to be what you want.

I'm feeling lucky google for "digital signature time stamp"

Cheers,
P-

Various digital timestamp services including USPS. (1)

expro (597113) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429509)

There are a variety of digital timestamps available. Ideally you should use multiples from different sources, so it doesn't matter if some become discredited. In this article [digistamp.com] , a company compares itself to the service provided by the US Postal Service.

The mentioned services would have to be provided on a retail basis rather than commercial, as these seem to be described, but I have no reason to believe they are not.

If you choose a sufficiently-strong message digest, they do not have to sign the whole digital archive containing your data whose existence you want to prove, but only the message digest.

Disclaimer: just because this service is credible to those understanding the theory, doesn't mean it will automatically be credible to a court, but I think a court established to hear technical issues could hear a good witness testify to the unforgeability and probably be convinced that it constituted proof. Although you might want to also do the more-traditional thing with the stamp that judges are used to seeing, too.

The cheap way (0)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429517)

If all you care about is proving you did it first, you can just mail the thing to yourself and keep the sealed envelope. Note however that if a patent is involved, the one who gets the patent is the first to file (in most countries except for the US), so if you don't file someone else can get the patent (even in the US) even if you can prove you invented it first. I would tend to go with "publish it" as a better option.

Re:The cheap way (1)

Hal The Computer (674045) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429605)

Offering people wrong advice makes you an idiot.

Modding up wrong advice makes you an even bigger idiot.

There's no point in mailing something to yourself unless you are a stamp collector. This is why asking for legal advice on slashdot is a really bad idea.

Re:The cheap way (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429675)

Offering people wrong advice makes you an idiot.

And I suppose calling the other an idiot removes the need for including any argument, right? Mailing to yourself *does* prove you came up with it first. Whether the proof useful in a dispute is another question that depends on the work itself. However, it's sufficient for "moral rights", i.e. claiming you did/wrote/invented it first.

Re:The cheap way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429719)

No, it doesn't prove anything, since it is possible to mail an unsealed envelope.

Patent it yourself, or forget the whole thing (1)

plierhead (570797) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429539)

IP sucks. Its never as simple as you think.

If you don't want to personally profit - but you just want to make sure that no-one else can control it - then you could release it/publish it, using any or all of the suggestions given by well-meaning but legally ignorant slashdotters above (or better still ask a lawyer).

However seriously, if its a great idea, then there's a high chance someone else will want in - perhaps claiming you stole it from them for example. Yes there are people out there like this. Do you really want to stand in the way of a mega conglomerate's or a patent troll's legal team? Whether you are in the right or not will have little to do with it - you'll get spanked and have to move to a cardboard box.

Perversely, you're probably safer to patent it yourself - that way at least if you get attacked you'll have something to offer to a white knight who might help to defend you.

Provisional patent application (1)

Janthkin (32289) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429541)

For $200 (in the US), you can file a provisional patent application. It will never be examined, and will expire in one year, but it is an unambiguous date stamp. (If you're a "small entity", you may be able to cut the fee by 50%.)

If you want it published with that date, you'll need to file an actual utility application ($1000, same small entity options). In 18 months or so, it'll be published, with the filing date clearly indicated. No one says you have to prosecute the application after filing it.

Just ... (5, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429587)

Put it in a sealed envelope and ...oh f***, nevermind.

How come I don't have any "Please! Stop!" mod points?

The traditional (and legally strong way).. (0, Redundant)

CokeJunky (51666) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429601)

Is to send a copy to yourself or someone you trust by registered mail (i.e. the post, snail mail, etc.), which you do not open. This has been a long-standing tradition, and requires no further explanation to the courts -- which is the only place this will be of any use because if someone has stolen your idea, that will likely be the only way you will get any recourse.

However, you do have to watch out: Some jurisdictions count first to patent as golden (unless the first to invent gets it out publicly enough, i.e. published in a journal, or the like, in which case prior art can take effect.).

IANAL, but I think you have to look at it very carefully. Sometimes the best thing to do is to file the patent, or register the copyright, and then license it for free. That always leaves your options open.

As per usual, your best option is to consult a lawyer in the field of IP. That is the only way to get meaningful advice on the subject. If it is not worth your time and money to do so, then your novel IP probably isn't worth you taking any steps to protect.

Or, you could just give it away, and see what happens.

Re:The traditional (and legally strong way).. (1)

xTown (94562) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429643)

Poor man's copyright is not recognized in the U.S. [snopes.com] It's too easily faked, among other things.

Securing ip (2, Insightful)

maxinuruguay (1149501) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429621)

What do you mean by secure? You better go to the store and by a book about do it yourself patents. There are many good ones. Assuming you want to secure the date that you thought something up, you will want to print out a detailed description of your idea (this does not need to contain claims or anything. Just a good description of what it does, how it improves existing solutions, etc. Patent book will give you an outline for this document). Take this document to 2 people who are capable of understanding it (non family members) and have them witness it by signing and dating it. Then you will have that date PROVIDED that you attempt to reduce it to practice. If it just sits and you do not actively try to build it or sell it you will lose your rights. Note that if you try to sell it before applying for a patent you will have only get 1 year therafter to patent it and you will automatically forfeit international patent protection so think carefully (the US is a big market so you may be content with a forfeit, after all international patents are expensive and costly to enforce). This method btw is free and open source. Also, keep a notebook and have it signed periodically by another person. A witnessed notebook written in ink is also VALID proof for dating IP as well as proving to the court that you were actively try to reduce it to practice. For computer stuff that I do not print out and paste into lab book, I use digital timestamps services from USPTO or digistamp. p.s. DO NOT MAIL IT TO YOURSELF. Postmarks have never been accepted by courts as valid for dating IP. You will need to have your document witnessed so that the court can talk with the person if necessary.

Digital Time Stamps for repeated witnessing (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429625)

I'm sure there are a number of timestamp services, but I've used digistamp.com. The service claims it was designed by scientists and certainly seems to meet some of their IP needs. It's based on RFC3161.

Essentially you generate a checksum and they digitally sign the checksum + the time. So it's crypto proof that at that time T you had a document with checksum C. (You're tied to the document by your account.)

You can, for example, timestamp a PDF file. It integrates with Acrobat pretty well.

I think this is the way to go. For example, you could back up your files every night and timestamp them, so if someone is working concurrently on the same idea as you and a dispute happens as to what day you added a particular feature, you would have evidence. I've used it to "notarize" some PDFs and other stuff.

I have no idea if there have been any legal challenges to this. Digistamp claims that their system has hardware specially designed by IBM to be hard to crack. As far as that goes... well, they're not Diebold...

Registered Letter (1)

Beached (52204) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429627)

Copy it and send it to yourself by registered mail and don't open it.

ip.com (1)

Champ (91601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429647)

There's ip.com's Legal Safeguarding Agent [ip.com] , which has Windows software that will automatically (or manually, if you prefer) compute a document hash for pretty much anything; the company then publishes a daily digest of hashes -- and they even get printed in hardcopy format.

I don't know the specifics of their hash algorithm, other than it's some combination of MD5 and SHA-1.

Technically, the best method is the oldest (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429689)

Send a registered mail application to the US Library of Congress (or National Library if you're Canadian) for copyright.

Technically, sending it to yourself (even if a flash drive copy) by registered mail will do, but you get a lot better protection if you go the whole nine yards (8 meters).

Legally, an electronic signature is also binding, and you can apply for it online as well, but it's amazing how effective a physical copy is in court.

How do I secure an IP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429691)

Well, I'm partial to pf on OpenBSD myself, but I suppose some people have had luck with ipf, or you could use iptables and Linux, if you're in to that sort of thing...

As for leaving you options open, I guess you could drop packets sent to each port you are running an internal service on, instead of the usual default deny...but really, that's awfully lazy, just ssh in and change your firewall configuration.

Oh, an...intellectual property? Zonk suggests tacks.

Published Hash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20429699)

I've thought about this some before... Being the semi-paranoid type (I'm Anonymous Coward here for a reason), I've often wondered how I could establish time stamped proof of an idea without revealing any details about the idea.

For example, lets say I do work out a water-to-gasoline conversion process, but I want to keep it secret and continue working on it, but would also like to record and time stamp my findings. If I zipped up all my research and kept it in a safe place, created a strong hash of the zip file (SHA1?), and posted that hash as something in a newspaper classified ad, paid for the classified with a credit card or other traceable tender that belongs to me, would that hold up in the courts as proof?

How Do I Secure An IP, While Leaving Options Open? (2, Funny)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 6 years ago | (#20429701)

I've found that a rule-based IP firewall like netfilter works well.
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