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Surprise! RSA releases crypto patent ahead of schedule

RSA Security Inc. pulled the tablecloth from underneath its competitors' plates, releasing its cryptographic algorithm into the public domain two weeks early.

RSA Security Inc. today pulled the tablecloth from underneath its competitors' plates, releasing its cryptographic algorithm into the public domain two weeks early.

The patent on RSA's crypto technology, which is widely employed in the security realm, would have expired September 20, exactly 17 years after the patent was issued to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and licensed exclusively to RSA. The 20th has been widely considered a watershed date, circled on the calendards of many security company executives' calendars. Some companies, like Baltimore Technologies Inc., were using the expiration of the patent as a springboard for new products and marketing campaigns.

RSA CEO Art Coviello told eWEEK that the company wanted to get this milestone out of the way because it was garnering too much attention and confusing customers.

"Someone asked me if I had thought about extending the patent, and that's the thing," Coviello said. "The idea of extending the patent hadn't even occurred to us because it's just not part of our business. Why would we not want this to be the de facto standard in the public domain? So now it's out there."

Coviello also said that the expiration of patent number 4,405,829 hasn't affected the company's strategic direction, which appears to remain focused on technology. While other companies are hurriedly extending into managed security services, RSA wants to remain a company entrenched in code.

"We're not schizophrenic," Coviello said. "We know who we are. We won't try to be something we're not. I don't think you can execute on a managed services model and a product model at the same time."