RSA's encryption algorithm has powered nearly all the locks that appear in a Web browser when it enters a secure area. The patent was issued to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nearly 20 years ago and licensed exclusively to RSA.
The patent was set to expire later this month, but the Bedford, Mass., company decided to release it ahead of schedule into the public domain where other developers can now use it to create their own variations.
Although other security companies have been waiting to work freely with the algorithm, RSA chief executive Art Coviello said he was unfazed by the expiration of the patent given the burgeoning need for encryption technology in e-business transactions.
"Releasing the RSA algorithm into the public domain now is a symbolic next step in the evolution of this market, as we believe it will cement the position of RSA encryption as the standard in all categories of wired and wireless applications and devices," Coviello said in a statement.
RSA said it intends to continue to offer technologies based on its RSA algorithm.