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3/31/2009
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Apple, Dell, Intel Sued Over Encryption Patent

The PACid Group named 19 tech companies in its lawsuit claiming infringement of its patent on generating encryption keys.

The PACid Group, a Houston company formed by inventors Guy L. Fielder and Paul N. Alito, on Monday filed a patent-infringement lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against 19 computer and semiconductor companies and their subsidiaries.

The patent in question is U.S. patent No. 5,963,646, "Secure deterministic encryption key generator system and method," which describes an encryption key generator. The system allows for "the destruction of an encryption key after each use by providing for the re-creation of the key without need of key directories or other encryption key storage processes."

Companies named in the lawsuit include Apple, Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, Edimax, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lenovo, Marvell, Realtek, and Toshiba. These defendants, PACid's complaint charges, include in their products the patented technique for generating pseudo-random, symmetric encryption keys.

PACid describes itself as "an encryption technology research firm, specializing in dynamic key management." It lists on its Web site four encryption patents, which it seeks to license to interested parties.

PACid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several of the companies named in the lawsuit are members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, including Apple, Dell, HP, and Intel. The group has been lobbying for patent reform as a way to reduce patent litigation costs.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Steven Appleton, chairman and CEO of coalition member Micron Technology, explained the situation as the tech sector sees it: "Technology companies have been victimized by a growing wave of patent litigation and licensing fee requests that often precede the filing of a patent lawsuit," he said.

Appleton attributes the surge in patent litigation to the major source of patent claims today: companies that exist solely to license intellectual property, otherwise known as nonpracticing entities, or NPEs. These companies do not make or sell any product or service; they exist only to collect patent royalties.

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