Patents, IETF and Network Operators

George Bonser gbonser at
Thu Jan 21 18:29:28 UTC 2010

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Shane Ronan 
> Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 9:33 AM
> The real question is why Patent something?
> The reality is even if you patent any idea/feature, other vendors will
> come out with a similar (although not patent infringing) version of
> the same idea/feature. While you might get a short term jump on other
> vendors, if the idea is really good, everyone else will catch up
> quickly. Further, customers REALLY like inter-op, I know for one I
> don't use protocols from vendors that aren't "standard"

The purpose of a patent is not to keep others from using your idea but
exactly the opposite.  It gives you exclusive use of an idea but also
makes for a mechanism where your idea is then documented and can be used
and improved upon by others once your exclusive use expires.

It was designed (in the US, at least) as an alternative to keeping
everything secret and an idea dying with the inventor/enterprise.  The
notion being that you would have exclusive use of the idea long enough
to have a commercial advantage but eventually the world could benefit in
a more general sense if the idea proved to be a good one.  The way
patents are used today as a commodity is against what the original
purpose was.

To quote :

As secretary of state, Jefferson ran our first American patent office.
For him, its purpose was to promulgate inventions, not to protect them.
He hated monopoly and was determined that the patent process shouldn't
serve it. The peculiar character of an idea, said Jefferson, is that

    ... no one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole
of it. He who receives an idea from me receives [it] without lessening
[me], as he who lights his [candle] at mine receives light without
darkening me. 

Jefferson had used mathematics to design a wonderfully improved plow.
When he was done, he gave it away -- to America -- then to Europe. He
would turn in his grave at the way today's patents make ideas into

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