Apple Sued for Infringing Encryption Patent

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The Apple Lawsuit Express took on a new passenger Tuesday when The PACid Group filed suit against the company alleging patent infringement. Apple was one of 19 companies named in the suit, which was filed in patent-litigation-friendly Eastern District of Texas, according to InformationWeek.

The patent, "Secure deterministic encryption key generator system and method," describes a method where, "An encryption key generator is disclosed which is highly resistant to cryptographic analysis or brute force attacks, and which accommodates the destruction of an encryption key after each use by providing for the recreation of the key without need of key directories or other encryption key storage processes."

In other words, the patent covers a method for creating a series of one-time use encryption keys used in computing devices -- more or less.

Apple was sued along with Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, Edimax, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lenovo, Marvell, Realtek, Toshiba, and seven other companies.

The PACid GroupThe PACid Group describes itself as, "an encryption technology research firm, specializing in dynamic key management. PACid have invented, and patented novel encryption key management technologies, extending the value of today's encryption systems." The firm then seeks to license those patents to third party companies.

The particular patent involved in the suit, Patent #5,963,646 was filed on December 28th, 1998, and granted October 5th, 1999.

Apple has increasingly become the target of patent infringement lawsuits, an increase that has largely been in keeping with the rise of the company's success.

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Whoa, a lawsuit that is based on an actual technique and not just a vague idea?

What took them ten years to file a lawsuit? I thought it necessary to vigorously defend a patent in order to keep it.

Bryan Chaffin

Yeah, the patent is very specific about the technique used—whodathunk, eh Tiger? smile

Oftentimes a suit won’t get filed until someone new buys the patent, but I wasn’t able to determine that on this one.  It is a long time to wait, but there’ve been examples of longer periods (like BT’s suit over Hyperlinks earlier this decade—that patent was quite old before the suit was filed).

I couldn’t pretend to guess where this suit will go, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this gets a settlement from at least some of these companies.



This is a rather funny suit.  Consider that in the early 1990’s when Jobs owned NeXT, they were restricted from exporting the NeXT because of the capability to perform encryption using elliptic integrals developed by Richard Crandall.  Seems to me that maybe Apple should countersue.  They might predate them.


What we don’t know is when was Apple advised that they *might* be infringing? You don’t have to outright accuse someone of infringement to establish that you’ve been vigorously defending your patent. I’ll bet Apple gets more than a few of these types of letters a week. But we only get to hear about it when someone gets tired of sending letters and sues.

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