Secure Shell inventor denied trademark request

The Internet engineering community rebuffed one of its own security gurus this week, by rejecting a request from the inventor of the popular Secure Shell protocol to change the technology's acronym to protect his company's trademark on the term.

Tatu Ylonnen created Secure Shell in 1995 as a way of securing remote login, file transfer, TCP/IP and X11 forwarding. The protocol automatically encrypts, authenticates and compresses transmitted data.

Ylonnen published Secure Shell as free software, and the technology is now available from several software vendors, including Sun Microsystems Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc., Nokia Corp. and L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. Ylonnen's own company, SSH Communications Security Corp. of Finland, sells a full suite of cryptography and authentication products based on the Secure Shell protocol.

From the onset, Secure Shell has been commonly referred to as SSH. As the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) wraps up its work to standardize Secure Shell, Ylonnen asked the group to change the protocol's acronoym to Secsh or some other phrase to protect his company's trademarks and brand names.

At a contentious meeting held here this week, the IETF's Secure Shell working group denied Ylonnen's request, citing concerns that it would set a bad precedent for other trademark claims facing the standards-setting body. The request was denied despite recommendations from Jeff Schiller, co-chair of the IETF's security area, to "be nice."

"Maybe we can find it in our hearts to help out one of our own," Schiller said at the start of the debate.

Ylonnen himself argued that "my appeal is as the creator of this thing." Changing his company's name and the brand names of his products to differentiate them from the new IETF standard "will be very expensive," he said.

But IETF participants argued that both Secure Shell and its acronym SSH were generic terms that can't be protected by trademarks. Ultimately, the working group voted 3 to 1 to reject Ylonnen's request.

"I'm very disappointed," Ylonnen said after the meeting. "What will I do next? Consult my lawyers."

This story, "Secure Shell inventor denied trademark request" was originally published by Network World.

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