The Internet Engineering Task Force is a group of very smart people with the goal of making solid interoperable internet protocols that are not encumbered by patents or trademarks. They meet up four times a year at different locations all over the world. I try to attend at least two each year.
If you are a software engineer interested in protocols, I really recommend attending these meetings. These are not “sit back and relax” conferences you take as a break from boring work days. These are meetings where smart people work hard to make things happen (ahum, though sometimes not as fast as we would want to).