Kim Dotcom (nee Shmitz), founder of the MegaUpload and Mega file-sharing sites, claims to own a key patent for two-factor authentication (2FA) and is seeking “donations” from companies that use the process to help him fight extradition from New Zealand on media piracy charges.
Dotcom (under his former name) was awarded US patent 6078908 A, for a “method for authorizing in data transmission systems.”
Two-factor authentication combines a password typed into a browser with a random code the authorized user receives via text message.
Dotcom announced via tweet that he owned the patent, and asked companies that use 2FA (including Twitter itself, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo) to help pay his legal fees. “Use my patent for free,” he tweeted. “But please help funding my defense.”
He added (with respect to the prospective donors), “I never sued them. I believe in sharing knowledge & ideas for the good of society. But I might sue them now ’cause of what the US did to me.”
Dotcom, a German-Finnish citizen and former teen hacker who has been convicted of crimes including computer fraud, data espionage, insider trading, and embezzlement, was arrested and imprisoned in New Zealand in 2012 in response to US charges of criminal copyright infringement. His MegaUpload site, which had 150 million users, was accused of causing $500 million in losses to the US entertainment industry.
Dotcom denies the charges. He is now out on bail and struggling to pay his legal fees while his assets are frozen.
The patent at issue, which was filed in 1996 and granted in 2000, appears to be Dotcom’s only one. It is still valid in the US, but the European version was cancelled in 2011 after opposition from Ericsson, which holds a prior patent on the process.
The 1994 Ericsson patent describes “a method and an apparatus for authentication of a user attempting to access an electronic service, and, in particular, providing an authentication unit which is separate from preexisting systems.”
Dotcom has also offered his patent rights (whatever they’re worth) to the highest bidder.
“Want to buy the world wide license to my two-factor-authentication patent? (13 countries incl. US & China) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,” he tweeted.