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US judge lobs antivirus patents back to Hell

Loss of two patents cripples case against Trend Micro, could slash Symantec payout

A US district court has torn the heart out of two patents wielded by Intellectual Ventures against two antivirus makers.

In a judgment [PDF] this week, Chief Judge Leonard Stark ruled that Intellectual Ventures' US patents 6,460,050 and 6,073,142 were "ineligible," meaning they are too vague and the technologies they described unpatentable.

The '142 and '050 patents described email filters designed to catch spam and malware. A third Intellectual Ventures patent, 5,987,610, which described "computer virus screening methods and systems", was upheld by the judge.

The three patents were brought before the Delaware district court for scrutiny by Symantec and Trend Micro after they were sued by Intellectual Ventures for alleged patent infringement. The antivirus pair wanted the patents torn up so they could undo Intellectual Ventures' case against them.

"Trend has firmly believed that Intellectual Ventures' case has been based on over-broad construction of invalid patents since it was targeted by IV in 2010, and we are appreciative of today's vindication on the validity issue," Trend Micro's general counsel Felix Sterling said in a statement passed to El Reg.

In a Thursday court filing [PDF], Intellectual Ventures agreed to abandon its legal action against Trend, though the two sides were at odds over how their court costs should be split.

As for Symantec, Intellectual Ventures has already won a $17m patent-infringement judgment against the California-based biz: $9m of of that was down to the '142 patent.

The ruling may be welcome news for those seeking patent reform and the elimination of "patent trolls" that acquire patents and sue companies for alleged violations. Groups such as the EFF have condemned Intellectual Ventures as one of the worst patent troll offenders. Even populist TV funnyman John Oliver has taken a pop at patents... ®

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