Many in the small business community may assume that technology like https is available for anyone to use. And there are certainly justifications for this assumption. But some companies have gotten into the habit of claiming propriatary rights for even technologies some might claim are available to everyone.
One of the latest legal actions taking place comes from a Texas company called CryptoPeak Solutions. The company is suing the who’s who in tech and retail by claiming Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) websites infringe on a patent it owns.
Whether justified or not, 11 companies, including Scottrade, Anthem Insurance, and Discover Financial Services have settled out of court with CryptoPeak, according to The Register.
The patent being pushed by CryptoPeak Solutions is for its “Auto-Escrowable and Auto-Certifiable Cryptosystems.” The company claims in its abstract that using the technology, in most cases, is an infringement.
In layman’s terms what the suits are saying is, if your company is using HTTPS (and who isn’t these days) you could be liable.
So What is HTTPS?
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure is the secure version of HTTP. It is a protocol used to send information between your browser and website using encryption. For businesses conducting financial transactions, it offers a level of protection when credit card information and other types of sensitive data is being transmitted.
Granted most small businesses don’t have the financial means to make them a target for these types of lawsuit, so they may be safe, but this is not a guarantee. In the vast majority of cases, companies bringing such suits don’t even bother because there are bigger fish out there. Some of the companies CryptoPeak is going after include: AT&T, Buy.com, Macy’s.com, 3M Company, Hyatt Hotels, Yahoo, Pinterest, The Home Depot and many others.
The large number of lawsuits filed by the company could be because of the death of Form 18 that took effect on December 1, 2015. This is a template that simplified patent litigation by placing the burden on the defendant. With the passing of this law, patent challengers and their lawyers will have to provide a stronger burden of proof. The law was specifically written to address the impact patent trolls are having in the patent system in the US.
The case which was filed in the Eastern District of Texas is a haven for patent trolls. The court is friendly to patent holders, no matter how the patents are acquired, which explains the number of filings it receives regarding these types of cases.
Patent protection is necessary, because there are individuals, companies and countries that willfully violate someone’s hard work. And in those instances, the original patent holder should have the right to go after compensation.
But suits like the recent one are dangerous for small businesses since they are filed on technologies small businesses have reason to believe are available to anyone. And small businesses often simply don’t have the budget to for fight such claims.
https Blocks Photo via Shutterstock