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8/8/2005
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U.S. ITC Bars Import Of Fortinet Products With Antivirus Features

The U.S. International Trade Commission's order, which allows the company to support existing customers, stems from an earlier ruling that Fortinet's antivirus software violates a Trend Micro patent.

The U.S. International Trade Commission Monday ordered Fortinet to stop importing products that contain its antivirus software into the United States, but stopped short of preventing the company from supporting its current customers.

Fortinet’s Fortigate appliance competes in the emerging unified threat management category of single-box appliances that serve as firewalls and VPNs, with antivirus, antispyware and other security options available.

The ITC’s order stems from an earlier ruling that the antivirus software from Fortinet, Sunnyvale, Calif., violates a Trend Micro patent.

The order bars Fortinet from importing, marketing, advertising, offering for sale or selling the affected products. The order also bans Fortinet from aiding or abetting other entities in the sale or distribution of the products.

The ITC’s order specifically allows Fortinet to continue to provide maintenance releases and virus signature releases of its anitvirus software for customers that purchased the Fortigate product prior to Monday.

In an interview before the order, Fortinet CFO Hal Covert told CRN the company will comply with the order. “We have believed all along that we have not violated the patent,” Covert said. “However, the patent was reviewed by the ITC and they have ruled that we did.”

Still, Fortinet engineers are working on a new approach to virus filtering that will not violate the patent in question, Covert said. Fortinet will have a software update within 60 to 90 days that avoids the patent issue, he said.

Fortinet distributors in the United States should have enough inventory to meet demand until the enhancement is ready, Covert said. According to Monday’s ruling, however, Fortinet will not be allowed to provide maintenance releases and virus signature releases to products bought after the order was issued.

Although Fortinet contends it still can sell its Fortigate products without antivirus protection, resellers of the product said that antivirus is what makes the product compelling.

Covert added that the company generates 70 percent of its sales outside the United States, none of which will be affected by the order.

Still another option for the company is to sign a licensing agreement for the technology with Trend Micro. Security leaders Symantec and McAfee already have signed such agreements for the technology.

“We are actively talking with Trend Micro to resolve this,” Covert said. “We want an agreement that is fair and reasonable.”

Lane Bess, president of North American operations for Tokyo-based Trend Micro, told CRN his company is open to a reasonable solution.

“We have been very open to options and suggestions from Fortinet,” he said. “Our goal has never been to put Fortinet out of business. Our goal is to protect our intellectual property and have companies pay us for the use of it.”

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