A ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission could create trouble for users of anti-virus tools from Fortinet Inc.
On Aug. 8 the ITC said Fortinet anti-virus technology violated a patent owned by Trend Micro Inc. The commission, in Washington, ordered Fortinet to stop importing or selling anti-virus technology that relies on the patent. The order could prevent some Fortinet customers from obtaining anti-virus software and definition updates.
The ruling was a setback for Fortinet in the year-old dispute, but the Sunnyvale, Calif., company said it plans to fight on, arguing that Trend Micros patent is too broad. Fortinet sells the Fortigate line of security appliances, which offer anti-virus, firewall, content-filtering and intrusion detection features, among others.
The dispute between Trend Micro and Fortinet, which dates from June 2004, is similar to actions that Tokyo-based Trend Micro took against Symantec Corp. and Network Associates Inc., now McAfee Inc., in the late 1990s over patents covering server-based, anti-virus scanning. Symantec and McAfee now license the technology from Trend Micro, said the companys vice president and general counsel, Carolyn Bostick.
In May an ITC judge ruled in Trend Micros favor in an unfair-import proceeding that the company brought against Fortinet, and last week the full commission affirmed the ruling. Hal Covert, Fortinets chief financial officer, said the ruling is not the end of the road for his company in its dispute with Trend Micro. The decision affects only the anti-virus component of Fortigate appliances and only U.S. sales of Fortigate devices, which are about 30 percent of Fortinets market.
Although Fortinet cant sell Fortigate anti-virus products, Covert said he believes the companys channel partners, which arent affected by the ruling, have enough inventory to last until the end of this year. By that time, Fortinet will have made changes that sidestep the Trend Micro patent, he said.