Kim Dotcom is once again making headlines, but not over his controversial Mega website. Rather, Dotcom claims he invented two-factor authentication. He has promised to not sue companies using the technology; namely Google, Facebook and Twitter, but only in exchange for aiding his fight against the onslaught of DMCA-based legal troubles he continues to face.
"Google, Facebook, Twitter, Citibank, etc. offer Two-Step-Authentication." Dotcom tweeted. "Massive IP infringement by U.S. companies. My innovation. My patent."
The German-born New Zealander shares the proof here: a patent titled "Method for authorizing in data transmission systems" filed in 1998. The patent was submitted under the name "Kim Schmitz" -- Dotcom's given-name before he had it legally changed in 2005 -- and appears to be the only patent he's had published.
Two-factor authentication (aka. multi-factor authentication, two-step verification) relies on more than just a password to log on to an account. Most implementations boil down to something you know (i.e. password) in combination with something you have (e.g. smartphone, dongle). The idea is even if hackers discover your password, they most likely don't have your phone (or vice versa). In recent years, the authentication scheme has been widely deployed across many popular online services.
Whether or not Dotcom's patent makes him the indubitable owner of two-factor authentication is not entirely known; software patents are a notoriously murky area best left to legal experts. However, The Guardian noted there appears to be prior art for the technology dating back to 1995, courtesy of Ericsson and Nokia. Since older filings take precedent, Kim Dotcom may not hold a valid patent unless his submission is differentiated in some key way.
Even so though, Dotcom's "Method for authorizing in data transmission systems" lends the controversial millionaire a fair amount of geek cred.
"Google, Facebook, Twitter, I ask you for help." Dotcom appealed on Twitter. "We are all in the same DMCA boat. Use my patent for free. But please help funding my defense."
The eccentric entrepreneur asserts his legal defense is roughly $50 million and counting. Although Dotcom is well-known for having sizeable piles of cash and extravagant tastes, his earlier assets remain frozen.