[E-voting] [Fwd: [vote-wg] VVPAT patent]

Margaret McGaley mmcgaley at cs.nuim.ie
Mon Jun 19 15:46:01 IST 2006

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	[vote-wg] VVPAT patent
Date: 	Mon, 19 Jun 2006 04:10:00 -0700
From: 	Erik Nilsson <erikn at cpsr.org>
Reply-To: 	vote-wg at lists.cpsr.org, "Erik Nilsson" <erikn at cpsr.org>
To: 	<vote-wg at lists.cpsr.org>

USPTO has issued a patent for paper records associated with a DRE. The
patent is number 6,968,999: "Computer enhanced voting system including
verifiable, custom printed ballots imprinted to the specifications of each

This patent issued 11/29/05, filed 12/12/01, based on an abandoned
provisional filed 12/28/00. My understanding is that claiming priority on an
abandoned provisional is pissing in the wind.

The claims are pretty broad, and to my reading, weak. It seems like the
prior art search on this was severely inadequate. Papers published by Bob
Wilcox and me in 1988 and 1989 would seem to me to cover the entire subject
matter of this patent. Rebecca Mercuri states she devised the same general
system in considerable detail at about the same time and perhaps even
earlier. If she published before 2001, and I'm pretty sure she did, then
Mercuri's publications would also be invalidating prior art. 

It would appear possible nonetheless to steer around this patent. The
independent claims are 1, 25, and 26. Claim 1 contains a curious limitation:
the patent is only applicable if selected choices are printed in a *font*
different than unselected choices. Claim 25 describes a method whereby only
selected choices are printed. Claim 26 describes more or less the whole VVPB
process, with two limiting factors: the voter cannot vote a blank ballot (at
least one choice must be made), and the same printer that prints the ballot
must also print a voiding mark on the ballot. Thus a system that prints both
selected and unselected choices yet differentiates them by a means other
than font (position, size, face, or by textual notation of "vote -->", for
example) evades claims 1 and 25. So long as a voter is allowed to generate
an entirely blank ballot (as is legally required in many places anyway),
then claim 26 is evaded.

Nonetheless, this one could be a source of trouble. 

The inventor appears to be the David Reardon that directs the Elliot
Institute and wrote this book:
http://www.afterabortion.info/jericho/index.htm Elections technology seems
to be something of a departure for Dr. Reardon. (Possibly there is more than
one David C. Reardon in the roughly 100K residents of Springfield, IL, but
that seems not particularly likely.) Fortunately, this Dr. Reardon wouldn't
seem to have the background or economic interest to wage a protracted patent
fight, but he could license '999 to people who do.

Warning: I am not a patent lawyer. Not a lawyer even. Do *not* base your DRE
IP strategy around my speculation, as you will surely come to grief if you
do, or at least I hope so.

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