Security company Kaspersky Lab is toasting its recent court victory over a 'patent troll', the Russian firm being the only vendor among a clutch of big names to hold out against the demands of the US patent company that brought the case.
The case started life over three years ago IPAT (Information Protection and Authentication) demanded that up to 35 tech vendors including Microsoft, Symantec and CA pay license fees to cover two early 1990s patents that described security functions including a primitive sandboxing and application control concept to secure programs.
The patent description for the latter was vague by today's standards but IPAT deemed many security companies to be in breach of it, including Kaspersky Lab and rivals such as AVG, Check Point Software, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, PC Tools, Sophos, and Trend Micro.
Few companies mentioned the issue again although apparently all bar Kaspersky Lab gave up and paid out fees of up to $5 million per annum to settle the dispute.
Little reported outside Russia, District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled in favour of Kaspersky in late June.
IPAT would not be able to bring further claims against Kaspersky Lab despite accepting the judgment in a "grudging" way, Kaspersky claimed.
“This is a major achievement. Back in 2008 I said to our lawyers there would be no backing down – we would go to court and fight it out with them,” said Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky.
“It was our first experience of a patent legal battle and we decided to stand our ground and stand up for our rights. Now we are mulling over ideas to strike back at the trolls. Not only are they extorting money, more importantly they are endangering technological progress!”
The way in which companies – called 'trolls' in disparaging parlance – have used generous US patent laws to create a living for themselves has come in for huge criticism both inside and outside the country for some years.
According to a Boston University School of Law study, litigation by “non-practising entities' could have cost US tech companies $29 billion (£18.3 billion) in 2011 in legal and others costs.
The report concluded that patent litigation was, in effect, a tax on innovation.
“The process was incredibly time-consuming for my team and our lawyers, all of whom faced numerous issues on a daily basis as they fought to ensure we successfully developed and implemented our defence. This just made us all the more determined to beat the patent trolls!,” said Kaspersky Lab's chief IP lawyer, Nadezhda Kashchenko.
IPAT has not made a public statement about the case.
The positive result isn't quite the end of the road for 'trolls' and Kaspersky Lab; fellow Texas shell Lodsys Group filed a separate suit against a number of security companies, including the Russian company, in May.