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Segregated Witness and the Possibility of Patent Infringement




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During the late evening of June 1, Bitcoin.com received an email from an anonymous source who has been researching possible patent infringements associated with the Segregated Witness (Segwit) protocol. According to the researcher, Segwit may be at risk violating two specific patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Also read: Bitcoin Could Progress the Fourth Industrial Revolution Says Wealth Manager

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Segregated Witness and Prior Patents

Segwit is a protocol that has been discussed quite a bit over the last year as a solution to bitcoin malleability issues and the possibility the implementation will improve transaction throughput. The concept relocates witness inputs created by transaction hash and separates the data into its own tree. The Segwit soft fork has been debated relentlessly within the bitcoin community as the protocol has not yet found sufficient support to activate the code.

The patent researcher who contacted our team has been investigating Segwit’s possible relationship with similar patents filed across the globe. It seems during the investigation; two USPTO patents were found that Segwit protocol may infringe upon.

The first patent discovered was US 8261082  a “Self-signing electronic documents” which was published in 2012. According to our source, Claim 11 of US 8261082 appears to be relevant to Segwit. Claim 11 of the document reads;

“A computer-implemented method, comprising: receiving a signed first electronic document, the first electronic document including digital signature rights information, a digital signature module and a digital signature generated by the digital signature module, the digital signature module, which when loaded performs digital signature operations; accessing, by one or more computers, the first electronic document in a user application; validating the digital signature in the first electronic document using the digital signature module in the user application; accessing a second electronic document, the second electronic document being a document other than the first electronic document, the second electronic document being identified by the digital signature rights information in the first electronic document; and performing digital signature operations on the second electronic document.”

The patent investigator who contacted us states, “if we consider the two parts of a message to be the first and second electronic document, then all of the features of the claim would be present in Segwit.”

Segregated Witness and The Possibility of Patent Infringement
Patent US 8261082

Another Self-Signing Electronic Document Patent Created by the Same Inventor

Additionally, there is another patent, US 7370206, created by the same inventor Oliver Goldman published back in 2008. The patent is also filed under the name “Self-signing electronic documents.” Emails sent to us from the patent investigator details that it appears Segwit may infringe upon Claim 1 of Goldman’s intellectual property.

The patent investigator states, “If we take ‘accessing a second document, the second electronic document being a document other than the first electronic document, the second electronic document being identified by the digital rights information in the first electronic document; and performing digital signature operations on the second electronic document,’ to mean —  accessing a second transaction (which is an electronic document), the second electronic document being a document other than the first electronic document (as the information has been divided into two parts in this contract), the second electronic document will contain information being identified by the digital rights information in the first electronic document; and performing digital signature operations (which we refer to as the witness process) on the second electronic document, then all of the features of Claim 1 will be present in Segwit.”

Segregated Witness and The Possibility of Patent Infringement
Patent US 7370206

The claims told to Bitcoin.com follows another intense discussion concerning bitcoin related patents that has escalated over the past few months. Whether or not the protocol violates these specific patents would be decided within a litigation process. Moreover, the topic comes at a time when Bitcoin proponents debate subjects like the recent user activated soft fork (USAF) concept and the Segwit2X working group.

What do you think about the possibility of Segwit infringing on prior parents? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Shutterstock, Bitcoin.com, and the USPTO patents.  


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