Feral patent threatens one hundred million computers protected by ClamAV
by Andy Oram
It's a sad old story, a story we've all gotten tired of--the patent so brainless as to be almost worth citing as a creative act of industrial sabotage, yet awakened from years of dormancy with a hungry ferocity to claw and mangle everything in its path. This particular patent is being exerted by Trend Micro Incorporated against Barracuda Networks, Inc. for a firewall product incorporating the popular open source spam filter, ClamAV. Only this court case stands in the way of a power grab that would require all open source work on virus filtering gateways to cease.
The Trend Micro patent (5,623,600) simply suggests that virus filtering be provided in a firewall. That's all. Patents are supposed to cover things that are novel, and not obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art. This patent meets neither criterion. Although it was filed in 1995 and granted in 1997, Barracuda has found a good deal of written evidence that filtering at the router was widespread earlier. And if lots of people are installing virus filters on their desktop computers throughout a company--any fifteen-year-old could say, "Why don't you put it all in one place under the control of people who know what they're doing?"