US patent approves security IT patents

The US Patent and Trademark Office has issued two patents for security company Network Associates - one for "cleaning a computer"...

The US Patent and Trademark Office has issued two patents for security company Network Associates - one for "cleaning a computer" and another for filtering packets on a wireless network.

Patent 6,671,812, "Computer cleaning system, method and computer program product", covers McAfee's QuickClean software which removes unwanted data and software from a PC.

Patent 6,693,888, "Method and apparatus for filtering that specifies the types of frames to be captured and to be displayed for an IEEE802.11 wireless Lan", covers the monitoring of wireless data to ensure that it comes from a known and/or trusted source.

However, as with numerous other patents passed by the patent office recently, both patents appear to give rights over basic approaches to technology that have been around for years and are widely used by a number of different companies.

Only last week, another patent appeared to hand the entire anti-spam market to small player Postini. Patent 6,650,890 covered the pre-processing of e-mail and was dismissed by lawyers and competitors as impossible to impose.

Eolas Technologies and Microsoft are in an ongoing dispute in which Eolas was originally awarded $521m because Microsoft had infringed its awarded patent for embedding interactive elements into web pages. That case is still ongoing, mostly recently being dismissed on appeal.

Symantec paid $62.5m to small software company Hilgraeve for infringing its virus scanning patent in August last year. While Intel has agreed payment of $225m to Intergraph for infringing patents on parallel-computing technology.

Last week, Hewlett-Packard made its first foray into suing competitors for infringing patents by claiming Gateway had not paid it for inch-thick laptop computers, computer cursors and power management.

There are also ongoing discussions in Europe over whether to go the US and Japanese routes and open up software to patenting - something that many people fear will sound the deathknell for the open-source movement.

Kieren McCarthy writes for

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