Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Juniper Networks v. Palo Alto Network Patent Suit Ends in Mistrial

This week Juniper Networks failed to convince a jury that Palo Alto Network's PA-500, PA-2000, PA-4000 and PA-5000 Series Firewalls infringe US Patent No. 7,779,459US Patent No. 7,650,634, and US Patent No. 7,302,700.

For details see Juniper Networks not giving up firewall patent fight vs. Palo Alto Networks and Juniper vs. Palo Alto Networks: Firewall court battle set to begin 

Juniper claims Palo Alto firewalls are based on intellectual property (IP) that Juniper obtained when it paid $4 billion for Netscreen in 2004. Juniper claims Palo Alto knew all about this infringement given Nir Zuk now at Palo Alto, developed the firewalls with Yuming Mao, when they worked at Netscreen.

Professor Tanenbaum says firewalls are the I/O police that inspect data packets on computer networks. The data packets are routed to a "digital drawbridge." Data packets meeting requirements are forwarded into the "castle" and those that don't are "unceremoniously dumped in the moat." In short, firewalls keep the "good bits" (e.g., confidential information) inside the network and keep the "bad bits" (e.g., viruses, worms and other digital pests) outside of the network.

Juniper says Mr. Zuk was a key developer of the IP in question, so it's curious he is not a named inventor of the '459 patent or the '700 patent given US law requires naming all inventors, but the articles don't say much more to support an improper inventorship defense. Juniper might argue assignor estoppel bars that invalidity challenge, but Palo Alto should be able to file a petition for inter partes review to sidestep assignor estoppel.

Juniper immediately promised to refile this lawsuit, but what's the likelihood the jury will rule in favor of Juniper after a mistrial? It reminds me of a boxer immediately claiming a punch that landed didn't hurt. The larger the protest, the more it hurt. Not to say we know the mistrial stung Juniper, but its insistence it wants to keep go another round may suggest a bluffing boxer on the way out.

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