Debate Over Zip Format Heats Up

Questions about the splintering of the popular .zip file compression format may soon be resolved by the U.S. Patent Office. Two months into a was standards battle between WinZip Computing and PKWare over the way .zip software does strong encryption, PKWare, the company that has openly published the .zip specification since it was invented by company founder Phil Katz in 1986, has applied for a patent that it claims will govern the standards in dispute.

"What we've filed a patent for is the whole method of combining .zip and strong encryption to create a secure .zip file," said Steve Crawford, the chief marketing officer at PKWare. The patent was filed with the Patent Office on July 16, he said.

Separate Ways

PKWare first added strong encryption to its software in July 2002, including it in the release of its PKZip 5.0 for Windows product, but the company elected not to publish details of how it had done the encryption, claiming that it would be premature to do so before the software had been rolled out on different operating systems like OS/400 and MVS. "It did not make sense to us to define an implementation... that might subsequently change as we worked through implementation issues on these large platforms," Crawford said.

In May of this year, WinZip developed its own method of strong encryption, which incompatible with the PKWare product. Since then, WinZip and PKWare users have been unable to read each other's encrypted files. "It's kind of unfortunate," said Darryl Lovato, the chief technology officer with Aladdin Systems, whose company is working on supporting both file formats in its Stuffit compression software. "The good thing about the .zip file format was that you knew you could send it to everyone. Now that's getting broke."

News source: PCWorld

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