Patents, IETF and Network Operators

Steven Bellovin smb at
Thu Jan 21 18:52:16 UTC 2010

On Jan 21, 2010, at 1:29 PM, George Bonser wrote:

>> -----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.

Yes and no -- don't confuse the purpose of a patent with the rights it gives you.  A patent is not the right to do something; it's the right to keep others from doing it.

The purpose, though, is as you say: in exchange for publication of your ideas, society gives you a limited-term monopoly.  

I should add: patents can help society not just because it sees your ideas, but because of the monopoly: people are motivated to invent around your patent.

		--Steve Bellovin,

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