Apple Hit with Permissions Law Suit

Apple Inc is the target in yet another law suit, this time over accusations that it is infringing on patents relating to technology that manages software-based permissions. Protection and Authentication of Texas and Global Innovation Technology Holdings, the patent holder and licensee, named Apple along with several other companies in the suit.

According to the suit, Acer, Alienware, American Future Technology, Apple, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, Motion Computing and Panasonic are all using technology that limits who can modify files to administrators and file owners, but that none of the companies have licensed the rights either of the patent controllers.

At question are patents 5,311,591, "Computer system security method and apparatus for creating and using program authorization information data structures," and continuation patent 5,412,717. The original patent was filed in 1992 and granted in 1994, and the continuation was granted in 1995.

The patents describe what sounds strikingly similar to "sand boxing," which is a feature that's been available to Unix users even before the patents were filed for and granted. "The program is permitted to access what has been authorized and nothing else. In this fashion, the program may be regarded as being placed in a program capability limiting 'safety box.' This 'safety box' is thereafter associated with the program such that whenever the system monitor runs the program, the PAI for that program is likewise loaded and monitored. If the program attempts to do anything outside the authorized limits, then the program execution is halted."

Protection and Authentication of Texas and Global Innovation Technology Holdings are seeking a trial by jury and are asking for an injunction, damages and court costs. Considering the nature of the patents, however, it may be difficult for the companies to stand up against a "prior art" defense.

[Thanks to AppleInsider for the heads up.]