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McAfee Wins Patent for Security Services

McAfee.com raised eyebrows this week with the announcement that it had received a U.S. patent for the technology behind its software as a service model.

The relatively broad nature of the patent language made it sound as if McAfee.com obtained the rights for an automatic update technology method that was already in use by Microsoft Corp. for operating system updates and others when McAfee began seeking the patent in 1998.

The company's CEO, Srivats Sampath, on Thursday said McAfee does not have designs beyond the security services market.

“[The patent] is not a broad stroke covering every piece of software delivered as a service, but a narrow implementation” Sampath says. “What it will impact is companies that deploy security services on the Web with the material we have patented.”

Earlier in the week a Microsoft official said the company did not have major concerns about running afoul of McAfee's patent due to the two companies partnership surrounding .NET, Microsoft's grand strategy for Web services.

A nascent innovation, Web services are designed to streamline the integration of pieces of business logic into larger Web-based applications. Using a system of standards and protocols, developers can build Web services for business processes and make them available for other developers to reference and use in their own applications. By patenting its security services, McAfee will be able to better control its participation in the Web services space.

Having recently signed an agreement to integrate its security services with Microsoft .NET technologies, McAfee has been especially active over the past few months in readying itself to compete on the Web services front. As part of .NET, McAfee’s security services will have single sign-on capabilities through Microsoft Passport. In addition, McAfee’s services will be offered under .NET through Microsoft’s HailStorm initiative, which is a system of user-centric XML Web services intended for developers to build solutions that work seamlessly with one another.

McAfee's patent is titled “Method and system for securing, managing or optimizing a personal computer,” and protects McAfee’s methodology for delivering security services on the Web.

While Sampath's remarks signal that Microsoft and other vendors such as Linux distributor Red Hat are in the clear, security competitors such as Symantec Corp. could face battles over the patent.

McAfee’s patent is valid for 25 years, giving the company a legal foothold in the security services market for some time. “To deploy security services on the Web, companies will have to either work with us or work around the technology we have patented,” says Sampath.

So far Sampath says McAfee has no knowledge of anyone that is in violation of its patent. However, Sampath expects the patent will help his company realize some financial gains in the future as it partners with developers that want to use McAfee's security services as part of larger solutions.

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.

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