Patent List Grows in Juniper, Palo Alto Suit

The wheels of justice can turn slowly sometimes, particularly when complex technology patents and accusation of infringement are involved. Ten months after it was filed, the suit brought by Juniper Networks Inc. against rival Palo Alto Networks Inc. continues its slow plod through the courts and through several unproductive attempts at settling the matter before trial.

While the case file is getting bigger, no action is due in the matter now until at least  early next year.

The case being processed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington Delaware was filed on Dec. 19, 2011 and has since been assigned to Judge Sue L. Robinson, according to court officials. Judge Robinson is perhaps best known for her 2009 ruling that thwarted Delaware state efforts to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from dredging the Delaware River on environmental grounds.

In the Juniper matter, the original suit before Judge Robinson alleged that Palo Alto Networks founders Nir Zuk and Yuming Mao infringed on the patents Juniper purchased when it acquired Zuk and Mao’s former employer, Netscreen Technologies Inc. in 2004.

According to Juniper’s official court complaint: “Zuk and Mao are acutely aware of the patents-in-suit and the significance of the patented inventions to firewall technology because Zuk and Mao personally worked on the technology and participated in prosecution of one or more of the patents-in-suit when they were executives at NetScreen, the predecessor to Juniper’s current security business unit.

“Juniper paid approximately $4 billion to acquire NetScreen and its intellectual property, personally enriching Zuk and Mao through their equity interests in NetScreen. … Zuk and Mao left to form PAN as a competitor to Juniper. Zuk and Mao then incorporated into [Palo Alto’s] products the very technologies they learned about-and helped to develop and patent-while at NetScreen and Juniper. Palo Alto Networks has now has begun to use Juniper’s own patented technology to compete against Juniper, and is publicly claiming that it plans to grow at a rapid pace in markets pioneered by Juniper products.”

The patents in question include:

Method, Apparatus and Computer Program Product for a Network Firewall. (Patent No. 6,772,347) Invented by Ken Xie, Yan Ke, Yuming Mao
Internet Security System. (Patent No. 7,093,280) Invented by Yan Ke, Yuming Mao, Wilson Xu, Brian Yean-Shiang Leu
Method and Apparatus for Implementing a Layer 3/Layer 7 Firewall in an L2 Device. (Patent No. 7,302,700) Invented by Yuming Mao, Roger Jia-Jyi Lian, Guangsong Huang, Lee Chik Cheung
Intelligent Integrated Network Security Device. (Patent No. 7,650,634) Invented by Nir Zuk
Method and Apparatus for Implementing a Layer 3/Layer 7 Firewall in an L2 Device. (Patent No. 7,779,459). Invented by Yuming Mao, Roger Jia-Jyi Lian, Guangsong Huang, Lee Chik Cheung
Packet Processing in a Multiple Processor System. (Patent No. 8,077,723). Invented by Nir Zuk, Yuming Mao

Juniper officials allege the patented information was misappropriated by Palo Alto in its 200- 500- 2000- 4000- and 5000-series firewalls.

Last month, Juniper’s legal counsel filed an amended complaint in the case adding two more similar patents to the list, a court spokesperson said.

“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, told Channelnomics back when the suit was filed. Representatives of both companies termed the legal action more of a curiosity than any sort of major disruption to their business efforts.

The case is garnering attention again, however, as Palo Alto Networks recent financial fortunes appear to be rising even as competitors such and Juniper along with Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. And Cisco Systems Inc. seem to be faltering.

The two sides will try again to settle their differences in a mediation teleconference before a court clerk magistrate on Feb. 11, 2013, according to the court docket.

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