RealTime IT News

AirDefense Defends on Patent

Yesterday, we reported on the patent that AirTight Networks was awarded covering the use of intrusion prevention systems (IPS) on wireless LANs.

Competitor AirDefense said in a statement that it filed patents covering the same technology over two years before AirTight. And because of the way in which AirTight pushed through the patent process with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), AirDefense thinks the issued patent (#7,002,943) will be rescinded.

“There’s ways to expedite a patent, which results in a quick and dirty patent,” says AirDefense CTO Amit Sinha. “There are ways to characterize Prior Art... [to] wordsmith your way around a claim.” He says that’s exactly what AirTight did to get their patent.

Usually, it's first come, first served with the USPTO. Sinha says, “Since we filed two years prior... we’re confident we’re the senior part in this proceeding. The burden of proof is on AirTight.”

AirTight’s patent application was filed in October 2004. AirDefense says it filed for patents covering the same technology in June 2002.

The fast track to getting a patent may be a fast way to get some intellectual property to brag about, but because it doesn’t get the full scrutiny of the USPTO, it can become subject to scrutiny after the fact. Thus the intervention action.

“It won’t hold up in litigation,” says Sinha.

Before it goes to the courts, though, the companies have to hash it out with the USPTO. AirDefense has already filed an “interference action” against the AirTight patent. Sinha says there are two possible outcomes: first, that the AirTight patent will be rescinded and go to AirDefense, and second, both patents could be revoked. Sinha says there’s a negligible chance of the latter, and he doesn’t even entertain the thought of losing out to AirTight, saying “There is high probability given facts in evidence that our patent will prevail.”

Backing him up in this may just be the USPTO. AirDefense says that of the 18 patents it filed for in 2002, this week two of them were announced as “allowed” by the USPTO. That means their examiner in the USPTO is ready to grant the patent once the final forms and fees are in place. Since the allowed patents cover such general things as “actively defending a wireless LAN against attacks,” it’s a good bet it will conflict with the AirTight patent as issued.  AirDefense still has 16 other patents filed with the USPTO, and Sinha expects the company will soon file about half a dozen more.

AirMagnet, another WLAN security competitor, was named by AirTight as a competitor it does not think infringes on its issued patent. AirMagnet claims that’s because the AirTight patent application actually makes reference to an AirMagnet patent application made several years ago, which is still pending.

[Quotes redacted as off the record on 2/24/06.]