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Akamai, Digital Island Entangled In Legal Dispute

The escalating rivalry between Akamai Technologies Inc. and Digital Island Inc. got a little murkier Monday as Digital Island claimed ownership of a patent for technologies Akamai uses to deliver content over the Internet. The move was in response to a suit filed by Akamai and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last week, alleging that Digital Island was infringing on MIT's patent for the same technologies.

MIT holds a patent for the content delivery technologies and exclusively licenses it to Akamai. But Digital Island said its claims to the same patent predate MIT's claim.

"Digital Island has patent pending claims for the same inventions claimed by MIT and believes its own claims have priority over the MIT claim as its patent claims predate MIT's," the company said. "Digital Island believes that the Patent and Trademark Office will ultimately award ownership of these inventions to Digital Island."

Digital Island filed an Interference Action against Akamai and MIT with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the issue. It also filed a patent infringement complaint against Akamai in the U.S. District Court for the District of California, claiming that Akamai is infringing on a patent issued to Digital Island on Nov. 2, 1999. The company said the patent covers the use of "fingerprinting" technology to improve security and performance of content delivery networks. Akamai and MIT filed their patent infringement complaint against Digital Island in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Sept. 13.

"We have a tradition of respecting the intellectual property rights of others," said Ruann F. Ernst, chairman and chief executive officer of Digital Island. "We are disappointed in Akamai's allegations and attempts to disrupt the operation of our Footprint Content Delivery Network. Based on Akamai's actions, however, we have no choice but to respond in kind. Outside the courtroom, we will continue to seek a more rational approach to resolving this issue."

Firing back, Akamai Monday said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 6,108,703, "Global Hosting System," on Aug. 22. The patent was granted to MIT in the names of Tom Leighton, Akamai's chief scientist, and Danny Lewin, Akamai's chief technology officer. It covers several aspects of the company's FreeFlow content delivery service. The company said Digital Island's Footprint infringes on the '703 patent and it will seek damages and equitable relief in its patent infringement suit.

"We see Digital Island's response as a classic textbook maneuver and it was expected," said Jeff Young, marketing manager at Akamai. "We believe that our patent is substantial, that Digital Island is clearly infringing, and that we will continue to prevail in the marketplace as well as in the courts."