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There used to be a website, lavarand.com that would generate random numbers via a camera aimed at a lava lamp. This idea was patented with US5732138, but the website has since been shut down.

I think this is interesting and would like to put up a site with a web stream of the lava lamp with a 'generate' button, just for fun and with no intent to profit from it whatsoever.

Could I be sued because of the patent?

I'm also curious on whether or not I can just "not do" one of the claim steps to be sure to not violate the patent.

What is claimed is:

  1. A method for ensuring the security of a system from unauthorized access, comprising the steps of:

    digitizing a state of a chaotic system to form a set of binary bits;

    applying a hash function to the set of binary bits;

    obtaining a seed number from the hash function performed on the binary bits;

    inputting the seed number into a random number generator;

    using an output from the random number generator to form a password or cryptographic key, wherein the password or cryptographic key is used appropriately by the security system.

So, for example, let's say I simply don't apply a hash function to the set of binary bits (perhaps I encrypt it), but then follow the rest. Would that render patent infringement claims inactionable?

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Have you looked at the owner of the patent? This patent is owned by RPX. The assignment is here. RPX is a "good" patent aggregator. Check out the wikipedia page.

I don't think you have anything to worry about. Also, the patent expires in 6 months.

  • Ah, I didn't realize the current owner "promises to never assert or litigate the patents in its portfolio." Thanks! – Ehryk Aug 11 '15 at 22:18
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Could I be sued because of the patent?

Yes. In the U.S., you can always be sued for anything regardless of the facts.

So, for example, let's say I simply don't apply a hash function to the set of binary bits (perhaps I encrypt it)

Sounds like that would likely be considered a hash function. You've probably rediscovered https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographic_hash_function#Hash_functions_based_on_block_ciphers.

I'm also curious on whether or not I can just "not do" one of the claim steps to be sure to not violate the patent.

Sounds like you can easily avoid doing the last part ... "using an output from the random number generator to form a password or cryptographic key, wherein the password or cryptographic key is used appropriately by the security system." So as long as you wouldn't use the resulting random numbers to key a cryptographic system but just display them instead you wouldn't directly infringe.

  • I suppose I meant "could some one bring a suit against me that had merit". Encryption is not equivalent to, nor does it require the use of hash functions (hash functions are injective, or 'one way', where encryption is always bijective, or 'two way' to get the original back). – Ehryk Aug 11 '15 at 22:02
  • That clarification aside, if I omit a single step of a claim, is it not in violation of that claim? – Ehryk Aug 11 '15 at 22:03
  • @Ehryk Usually, yes (i.e., it would not infringe if you omitted a step, usually). But if you substitute something else that is an equivalent of the omitted step, you could infringe under the doctrine of equivalents. – Atsby Aug 12 '15 at 9:32

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