It looks like we don't have the clarification whether or not we want to allow (and if yes with which scope / restrictions) patent questions.

So the question is:
Do we want questions of the type "Is X covered by patents" on Crypto.SE?

The alternative would be pushing them over to the Law.SE folks, because they probably do know much more about patents than we do.
The reason (I see) for why to keep patents is that the question may involve very fine-grained cryptographic knowledge as well as understanding of the patent (which the Law.SE folks will probably have a harder time with). Additionally as it has most relevance to cryptography, Crypto.SE probably has a better chance of knowing the answer than Law.SE does.


  • The "X" may only be a cryptographic construct.
  • The question may extend to "... and for how long is it going to be covered?"
  • This question is mainly about the "is X covered" part, this should be the core of any answer, additional / other patent-related topics probably should be off-topic.

Example questions:

  • "Is OCB still fully covered by patents (which parts, which not)?"
  • "Is McOE covered by any patent?"
  • "Is / Was the AES-to-tweakable-block-cipher construction (in sole use) covered by OCB patents?"
  • "Is Encrypt-Mix-Encrypt still covered by patents and for how long will it be?"
  • $\begingroup$ There is Ask Patents, but I didn't check if they allow this kind of question. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ @CodesInChaos been there, done that. $\endgroup$
    – SEJPM
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


Do we want questions of the type "Is X covered by patents" on Crypto.SE?


Questions related to patents are already covered by Ask Patents. Therefore, I tend to say that I do not see any valid reason to replicate (part of) the purpose of another Stackexchange site.

Note that I am not judging the potential quality – or lack thereof – when it comes to such questions. Patent-related questions lacking a minimum of research efforts have a good chance to suffer the same “down-vote” and “on hold” risks as they do at every SE site. When it comes to patents, research efforts tend to quickly answer the question if something exists as a patent, or not. Even after having done some merely some basic research, such “does X exist” questions tend to quickly morph into a “I’ve invented X and doing some research I discovered a patent Y; does patent Y cover X too? (think patentability, as described to be on-topic at the Patents.SE Meta).

Besides that, another reason to avoid such questions here is that we’re not a patent search engine. Patent statuses can change on a daily base. I don’t think a Q&A platform like Stackexchange would be a good fit to cope with that. Imagine having to archive, update, and delete all crypto-related patents every single day. And we’re not even talking about patent-related law et al. Also don’t forget to consider all the small roadblocks that can arise when trying to combine that with the gamification at SE… like the user scores resulting from Q&A upvotes. Sure, turning everything patent-related “wiki” could patch things. But would that really make sense? I don’t think so. From my personal point of view, going down that road would mutate Cryptography.SE into a “crypto-patent info archive thingy”. I doubt that would be constructive for our beloved Crypto.SE site.


Based on the reasons above, I would treat “Is X covered by patents” questions as off-topic at Crypto.SE; just like such questions are treated as off-topic at Patents.SE.

Helping people…

To help people asking such questions, we can point them to dedicated patent search engines (like, for example, Google Patents at https://patents.google.com/) so that they can do their according research. Related to this, it might be helpful to know that Patents.SE has a Q&A answering “How can I perform a global patent search for free?” with additional, helpful pointers.

After people did their research, they’ll quickly find Patents.SE to be the most helpful site for any kind of question that may result from their patent research efforts.

Aside but related…

Last but not least it might be interesting to know that years ago (way back in 2012), the patent office looked at Patents.SE to find prior art. I’m not sure if they still do though, because I did not search for infos on how (and with what results) that “experiment” ended from the patent office’s perspective.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Agree, if patents.SE thinks of these kind of questions as too hot to handle, I don't thing we should be presumptuous and declare that, hey, we can. Also, do we want an extensive list as well where the patents would be valid? $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 23:38

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