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Jason, the primary benefit of ECC is that it provides a similar level of security when compared to RSA, the encryption technology of choice for most applications, while only using up a fraction of the code that RSA uses. This makes ECC very useful in resource-constrined devices such as PDAs and cell phones. Right now, Phone.com uses RSA for their WAP browsers, and based on my experiences related to logging into my Ameritrade account via my cell phone, the use of RSA does lead to a bit of a slowdown. Perhaps Moore's Law will change all of this in a couple of years. Of course, by then, more advanced, CPU-hogging applications will most likely also be out, requiring greater amounts of data to be encrypted.

I'm fairly sure that Certicom's ECC patent covers all variations of the encryption technology. Although Entrust recently came out with an ECC development toolkit, they first had to get a license from Certicom to be able to market it.

One other good thing about ECC is that keys based on it can be cross-referenced with an RSA-based root certificate. This is especially important considering that Verisign, which has a near-monopoly on the digital certificate market for servers, uses RSA.

As far as potential problems the company might have once the patent expires, I'm fairly sure that the majority of Certicom's revenues don't come from the mere licensing of its technology, but also the sale of developers' toolkits related to making ECC-enabled applications. The sale of toolkits is how RSA Security has continued to make a living even after the patents it had on the technology that bears its name ran out last year. To the best of my knowledge, Certicom has the leading ECC toolkit on the market, and thus is in a fiarly enviable position. However, I don't think the company's revenues will really start taking off until a couple of major WAP browser vendors begin using ECC within their products.

Hope this helps,
Eric
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