Dr Elad Barkan invented or discovered a cryptology method for breaking GSM coded communications and filed a patent application on 30 April 2003 titled “Cryptanalysis Method and System”, which was awarded Israel Patent No. IL 155671 in June 2005. The method was based on the discovery of a fundamental coding flaw in the GSM protocol which caused quite a stir among both telecommunication experts and the cryptology community.
On 23 June 2015, Rontal Engineering Applications 2001 Ltd applied to have the patent cancelled on various grounds including that it was a discovery and not an invention; that the supplementary tests of inventiveness were met so that there was no inventive step, and that the patent was never implemented. In a long and detailed decision, Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha considered the various allegations and ruled on the validity of the patent registration.
After the statements of case and the evidence were submitted, a three-day hearing was scheduled in December 2016, and the parties then submitted written summations.
Complicating matters, during the summation stage, the Opposer, Rontal Engineering Applications 2000 Ltd, filed for bankruptcy. Dr Barkan submitted a request that Rontal Engineering post a bond for 200,000 Shekels, to pay his legal fees should he prevail against them. The Deputy Commissioner agreed with his request and a bond was posted duly on 15 July 2017.
Somewhat unusually, the ruling starts with a list of definitions of various words relating to the GSM protocol. Then the decision goes on to rule if the invention relates to patentable subject matter. In a 46 page ruling with 165 paragraphs, the Deputy Commissioner found that the invention is patentable per se. Furthermore, the invention described is substantially different to the closest prior art so the patent was upheld.
In my conclusions at the end of this article, I conclude that the Opposers could probably have successfully obtained their real objective by negotiating a claim restriction to exclude brute force attacks which were never intended to be covered by the claims anyway.
A summary of the Decision follows.
The patent relates to GSM encryption, and to understand the case, a number of terms need to be defined.
GSM is an acronym for Global System for Mobile Communications. It is a standard for cellular phone networks developed in 1987 and available since 1992. The standard was published before the priority date. The standard is a digital telecommunication standard and voice is digitized, transmitted and then converted back into sound. GSM is encrypted to prevent third parties from eavesdropping. The communication takes place via base stations.
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