Kaspersky counters 'patent troll' lawsuit, wins $5,000

Kaspersky has won a surprising legal victory against a patent troll that not only resulted in the case being dismissed, but saw the anti-virus firm collect a $5,000 settlement in the process.

The Moscow-based security company was first approached by a patent holder in October last year, who issued a patent lawsuit and demanded a $60,000 cash settlement to make the case disappear.

The patent in question, US Patent No. 6,795,918, was owned by licensing company Wetro Lan LLC, a group that has become synonymous with patent trolling and attempts to squeeze quick wins from technology companies.

Patent '918, which essentially covers principles of a computer firewall, lapsed in 2012 when the original owner stopped making payments, and was later picked up by Wetro Lan in 2015.

Immediately following its purchase, the firm proceeded to engage in "one of most outrageous trolling campaigns we have ever seen", according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit championing digital civil rights, in which dozens of tech companies were targeted by threadbare lawsuits.

Patent-licensing firms of this kind typically scoop up cheap patents as technology firms go bankrupt, and aggressively target similar companies that appear to infringe on their estate. Patent trolling relies on a company seeking an early settlement, as regardless of the legitimacy of the claim, it would cost more for a tech company to win outright in court.

Wetro Lan argued that earlier builds of Kaspersky's Internet Security Software, built during 2011 and 2012 and the basis of current versions, infringed on the original patent.

However, Kaspersky refused to pay the $60,000 settlement clause, and decided instead to make a point of fighting the case in court. Realising Kaspersky was not backing down and it risked high legal costs, Wetro Lan reduced its "amicable" fee, eventually landing on $10,000, considered a relatively low figure for patent disputes.

At this point, Kaspersky's lawyers decided to issue a counter offer, demanding that rather than handing over $10,000 they would instead demand the sum be paid to them to cover legal fees. After negotiations, Kaspersky accepted $5,000 for its trouble.

Writing in a blog post following the victory, CEO Eugene Kaspersky said: "What's intriguing is that our colleagues and competitors in the industry are doing the exact opposite of what we are. Alas, they prefer to keep feeding the parasites, which, as mentioned, only leads to stronger, hungrier, nastier patent trolling to slow the development of the IT industry."

Patent trolling is particularly prevalent in the US, as unlike disputes in Europe, the law requires that each party pay their fair share of the legal costs. As a result, it's thought that 90% of all patent disputes are related to patent trolls.

In response, US tech firms banded together in July to form a lobbying group that would push through rules to make it more difficult to bring tenuous lawsuits against companies, which has received financial support from the likes of Amazon, Google, Dell, Intel and Oracle.

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.