RSA, VeriSign Prevail in Patent Suit

In a case watched closely by the e-commerce and security industries, a Delaware jury has found that RSA Security and VeriSign did not infringe on three patents for security software.

The decision follows more than two years of legal wrangling between the companies and retired electrical engineer Leon Stambler over the rights to Secure Socket Layer technology.

SSL is an industry standard for protecting Web communications. Built into all major browsers and Web servers, it facilitates encrypting data for digital certificates and is used in most secure online transactions.

“This suit could have had major ramifications for all users of the Internet and we believed it was critical to protect our customers and partners who rely on this industry standard to conduct daily business,” Margaret Seif, RSA’s general counsel said in a statement.

Tim Powers, a spokesman for Bedford, Mass.-based RSA, declined to elaborate on Seif’s comments.

In other patent cases, however, companies that lose such suits are faced with the unpleasant choice of removing the infringing technology or paying licensing fees to the patent holder.

Officials at Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign said company policy prevents them from commenting on litigation.

Stambler, who previously sued other companies over patent infringement, sought more than $20 million in damages from RSA and VeriSign.

The 74-year-old claims he invented the technology in the early 1990s and was awarded federal patents several years later. Stambler developed the technology for banks using automatic teller machines but said it had been lifted for SSL.

But attorneys for the companies argued that the technologies were not the same and noted that the SSL protocol was developed in 1994 and patented three years later by Netscape.

Powers, the RSA spokesman, expects Stambler to appeal but expressed confidence the companies would prevail.

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