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[liberationtech] Call for Open Letter on Skype

Christopher Soghoian chris at
Wed Dec 26 20:34:11 PST 2012

I can't believe that I am saying this, but can we tone down the paranoia a
bit please?

Large US technology companies are stockpiling patents, left, right and
center, primarily because of the costly patent wars that are ravaging the
industry. Back in 2011, Microsoft (and a consortium of other companies,
including Apple) bought telecom giant Nortel's portfolio of patents for 4.5
billion. I guarantee you there are a few surveillance related technologies
in that portfolio of 6000 telco patents. That doesn't mean Microsoft wanted
to implement Nortel's patented surveillance technologies - but rather, that
it thought a partial share in that portfolio would give it leverage in its
war against Google and others.

If you want a good primer on this toxic aspect to the american legal system
and the IT industry, I can't think of anything better than this episode of
This American Life:

Microsoft filed the Skype interception patent (which really isn't directed
at Skype - the word Skype appears twice, in a patent filing that is over
9000 words) in 2009, two years before the company bought Skype.

Companies file patents all the time for technologies they don't intend to
ever use.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are lots of things that Microsoft does that
concern me. The total silence from the C-level suite about Stuxnet and
Flame is shocking, while their continued refusal to include disk encryption
functionality in the consumer version of Windows that comes with most new
PCs is absolutely disgraceful.

However, the mere filing of a patent for an interception technology,
without any evidence to suggest that Microsoft has implemented it Skype, is
simply not a good reason to get out the pitchforks.



On Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM, The Doctor <drwho at> wrote:

> There is no reason to expect that anything good for anyone other than
> them will come from such a letter.  Not with this on deck:
> It would make no sense at all for them to do the work to file a patent
> on CALEA intercept of Skype traffic and then not do anything with it.
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