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[CQ-Contest] eqsl.cc patents?

Subject: [CQ-Contest] eqsl.cc patents?
From: dick.green@valley.net (Dick Green)
Date: Tue May 21 13:34:29 2002
I'm not a patent lawyer and these comments are my own, not ARRL's (repeat,
not ARRL's). My personal opinion is that eqsl.cc and LOTW are fundamentally

Eqsl.cc is a repository of radio contact information that can be used to
manually initiate a return confirmation. The confirmation is manual in the
sense that the recipient is informed about the pending QSL request,
determines whether or not the contact is valid and must tell the system to
initiate a return confirmation. It is not necessary to know the QSO
information in order to generate a return confirmation.

Logbook of the World is a also a repository of radio contact information,
but the confirmations take place automatically. Bulk log records are
uploaded by participants and the system automatically matches them to
generate electronic confirmations that may be automatically routed to an
awards processing system. Both participants in a contact must independently
know the QSO information in order to obtain a confirmation (i.e., you can't
read the QSO information submitted by the other guy in order to create your
matching QSO record.)

There are significant implementation differences: For example, LOTW uses
state-of-the art digital signature technology to verify identity and
permanently guarantee the content of QSO records against alteration, while
eqsl.cc uses a simple id and password security scheme that is vulnerable to
hacking and does not protect the submitted data against unauthorized
modification. It's quite possible that the differences in the security
schemes would be enough to make the approaches fundamentally different: it
wouldn't be hard to show that the less advanced scheme can't produce
confirmations reliable enough for awards processing and therefore has a
different end result (a printed card versus a secure awards confirmation.)

In my opinion, the only way a patent could stop LOTW is if it protected the
entire idea of electronic confirmation of radio contacts, regardless of how
it's implemented. The U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office tends to shy away
from overly broad claims like that, and usually requires that a step-by-step
procedure be described in the broadest claim. Any such step-by-step
procedure describing eqsl.cc would have to lay out the manual confirmation
scheme, which is not the same as the automatic confirmation inherent in
LOTW. Further, to get a broad procedure-less claim approved, N5UP probably
would have to show that he was the first person with the idea. However,
there have been discussions about electronic QSLing in the amateur community
for a long time, well before eqsl.cc hit the drawing board. Some may be in

It's possible that N5UP could get a patent on some of the sub-procedures,
like generating a QSL card image from the electronic QSO information. But
that's just a process, not something fundamentally new. After fiascos like
Amazon's "One-Click", the patent office has made it a lot tougher to get
process patents. Besides, even if such a patent was granted, it wouldn't
stop the most valuable part of LOTW, which is automatic confirmations
feeding into the awards system.

Do bear in mind that it is extremely expensive to defend a patent. My guess
is that no one would bring an infringement suit against a large organization
unless there was significant profit potential in the business -- and there
isn't. I would also imagine that the amateur community would be pretty angry
at anyone who even temporarily deprived them of the long-awaited ability to
bypass paper cards and snail mail to get awards securely. It's supposed to
be a friendly hobby, isn't it?

As for finding patent applications online, you can search for them on the
patent office website at www.uspto.gov. Unfortunately, while all granted
patents are published, the publication of pending patent applications is at
the discretion of the submitter. Only a handful of people decide to do this,
so the number of pending applications available at the website is pretty
small. This makes it really tough to figure out if a competitor is angling
to get a patent for a particular technology! You only find out after the
fact, potentially losing a lot of money in R&D efforts. I searched for
"QSL", "amateur", or "Morris" in the pending applications and didn't find
anything. But that doesn't mean the application isn't pending.

73, Dick WC1M

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cq-contest-admin@contesting.com
> [mailto:cq-contest-admin@contesting.com]On Behalf Of Kenneth E. Harker
> Sent: Monday, May 20, 2002 5:37 PM
> To: CQ Contest
> Subject: [CQ-Contest] eqsl.cc patents?
>      N5UP apparently has filed for patents on the idea of QSLing
> electronically, and has made a veiled threat to shut down the Logbook
> of the World project through patent protection:
> http://www.qslcard.com/qslcard/reasonswhy.cfm
>      At least that's how I interpret it.  Has anybody else been following
> this particular patent issue?  Anyone found the patent applications
> online?
> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
> Kenneth E. Harker      "Vox Clamantis in Deserto"
> kharker@cs.utexas.edu
> University of Texas at Austin                   Amateur Radio
> Callsign: WM5R
> Department of the Computer Sciences      VP, Central Texas DX &
> Contest Club
> Taylor Hall TAY 2.124                         Maintainer of Linux
> on Laptops
> Austin, TX 78712-1188 USA
> http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------

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