Juniper Accuses Palo Alto Networks of Using Its Patents in Next-Gen Firewalls

Juniper Networks has accused startup Palo Alto Networks of willfully infringing upon six Juniper firewall patents in its next-generation firewall technology.

Juniper Networks has slapped Palo Alto Networks with a lawsuit accusing the network security company of infringing six of its patents relating to firewall technology.

In the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 19, Juniper said while the technology used in its next-generation firewalls was invented by the founders of Palo Alto Networks, the patents actually belonged to Juniper Networks. Palo Alto's founders were originally Juniper executives who left to form their own company in 2005.

Nir Zuk and Yuming Mao worked on the technology in question as executives at NetScreen before joining the Juniper team when the company was acquired for $4 billion in 2004, according to the complaint. They were also involved in the process of applying for some of the patents and are named as inventor and co-inventor on the patents, Juniper claimed in the complaint.

"Juniper focuses on delivering breakthrough innovations for our customers. As a leading high-performance networking company, we will take every appropriate measure to defend and protect our innovation," David Shane, vice president of corporate communications at Juniper Networks, told eWEEK in an emailed statement.

Palo Alto Networks did not respond to eWEEK's request for comment.

NetScreen specialized in high-performance firewalls that competed directly with firewalls from Check Point Technologies. When Juniper acquired NetScreen, the company became the basis of Juniper's network security division. Zuk was Juniper's chief security technologist before leaving a little over a year later to form Palo Alto Networks.

Palo Alto Networks launched its latest next-generation firewall just last month. The PA-200 firewall comes in a small form factor and allows enterprises to extend the security available at the headquarters to the smaller branch office. Palo Alto's line of firewalls enables enterprises to identify and control applications, users and content, the company said.

Juniper claims its firewall patents were infringed in the development of the next-generation firewall.

Gartner recently named Palo Alto a leader in technology capabilities and performance in the next-generation firewall market. The market is expected to grow to 35 percent of total firewall spending by 2016, according to Gartner. Check Point, Cisco, Fortinet and McAfee are also considered major vendors of enterprise network firewalls, the research firm said in its report.

"With a unified single-pass inspection engine, rather than a design of passing traffic to submodules, Palo Alto Networks has maintained performance with relatively few models," Gartner said.

Gartner named Juniper as a challenger in the market in its report, because the company appeared to be focusing "more on other areas of its business and did not make significant advances with its firewall products." However, the analyst firm noted that Juniper is "often shortlisted and/or selected in carrier, service provider and data center deployments," and the primary reason may be due to price and the high throughput available on its largest appliances.

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Juniper is seeking a jury trial, unspecified damages and an order to stop misuse of its inventions, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.