AirTight's Patent Play
With a patent newly awarded this morning, the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm is talking to other companies in the market about licensing products based on its technology. (See AirTight Wins Patent.) At least one rival startup, however, AirDefense Inc. , says it will dispute the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision, claiming "prior art."
U.S. patent number 7,002,943 covers the detection and classification of threats on a wireless LAN network, blocking those threats while detecting others, and locating the problems on a floor map so they can be removed.
"We got the official notification this morning that it had been awarded," explains Dennis Tsu, VP of marketing at AirTight. "We think we have some unique intellectual property and we want to protect it."
According to Tsu, AirTight has already licensed its technology to Colubris Networks Inc. and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and is "in talks with a number of other companies."
Security startup AirDefense is not one of them. "AirDefense has not licensed our technology... We consider them a rival," reports Tsu.
For its part, AirDefense will fight the AirTight patent, claiming that its previously filed patent applications cover this technology.
"We filed the patents that cover this subject matter in June 2002," claims CEO Anil Khatod, "more than two years prior to AirTight."
The CEO says AirDefense will go back to the Patent Office and ask for another examination to review the patent in question. "We will follow the process required to protect our intellectual property."
It's no surprise that companies in the wireless security field should enter the patent fray, which has recently embroiled BlackBerry and others in the wireless industry. (See Mobile Email Monoculture Fades)
WiFi security is an increasingly pressing issue for enterprise wireless LAN users, and offers a potentially lucrative market for startups in the field. Some of the most high-profile acquisitions of late -- such as Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s buyout of Funk Software -- have been tied directly to wireless LAN security (See Juniper Gets Funky).
Crowded with startups looking for profits, the intrusion detection market is ripe for a shakeout, as AirTight's Tsu acknowledges. (See IDS Shakeout Ahead?.)
"At some point within the next three to five years there will be consolidation in the market." he tells Unstrung. "Having patents around our intellectual property will make us more attractive." AirTight has another 14 potential patents in the works, while AirDefense has filed 18.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung