Debate rages on patent

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-03-24 Print this article Print

applicability"> Meanwhile, debate has been raging, in forums such as Slashdot, regarding whether the patent in question even covers IPv6 standardization efforts. "This invention is not a protocol," wrote one poster named hoppo.
"In fact, I dont really where see the comparison between it and IPv6 holds water. If anything, it appears to be an attempt to improve upon or simplify DHCP, and is based on IPv4—both of which were referenced as prior art in the application." contacted a member of the IPv6 working group who also said that the patent seems to be specific to IPv4. "The patent appears to apply to the auto-configuration work that Microsoft did in one of the early versions of Windows," the engineer, who requested anonymity, wrote in an e-mail exchange. "My quick read is that the patent seems to be specific to IPv4. For example, it talks about 32-bit IPv4 addresses, but not 128-bit IPv6 addresses. While there are some vague similarities, the auto-configuration mechanics in IPv6 are quite different in detail than what appears to be described in the patent. Also, most of the patent claims deal with the problems [with] auto-configuring … in short addresses (i.e., 32-bits)." Others disagree, with one Slashdot poster arguing that self-assigning of addresses is one of the major advantages of IPv6. "With IPv6, attaching your box to the network will be as easy as plug in the network cable," the poster wrote. "For M$FT to try to (submarine-)patent this functionality is unethical even by todays standards." Its all academic debate at this point, however, Ravicher said, since neither engineers nor Slashdot posters, unless they also happen to be patent attorneys, are qualified to say what the patent does and does not cover. "You have to be a patent attorney to interpret a patent," he said. Microsoft itself is unsure whether the patent covers IPv6 standards and is now looking into the matter, Kaefer told To read more about Microsofts efforts to overhaul the U.S. patent system, click here. "It is unclear whether or not the patent under discussion is even applicable to the IPv6 standardization efforts," he said. "We will look into that and also any standards-related disclosure obligations that may be relevant. Having said that, we frankly think that the Free Software Foundation and the Public Patent foundation have raised this issue as a red herring." Because Microsoft is not, apparently, asserting its patent, PubPat is not pursuing a remedy at this time, Ravicher said. That does not mean, however, that companies have not been intimidated by the patent. "[Bernstein] hasnt told us what Microsoft did to his client to bring them to the point of alerting the press," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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