Palo Alto Networks threatens to sue security startup for comparison review, says it breaks software EULA

'I'm not going to be bullied by someone with deeper pockets' vows Orca boss


Palo Alto Networks has threatened a startup with legal action after the smaller biz published a comparison review of one of its products.

Israel-based Orca Security received a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer representing Palo Alto after Orca uploaded a series of online videos reviewing of one of Palo Alto's products and compared it to its own. Orca sees itself as a competitor of Palo Alto Networks (PAN).

“What we expected is that others will also create such materials ... but instead we received a letter from Palo Alto’s lawyers claiming we were not allowed to do that,” Orca chief exec Avi Shua told The Register this week. “We believe these are empty legal threats.”

In a note on its website, Orca lamented at length the “outrageous” behavior of PAN, as well as posting a copy of the lawyer’s letter for world-plus-dog to read. That letter claimed Orca infringed PAN's trademarks by using its name and logo in the review as well as breaching non-review clauses in the End-User License Agreement (EULA) of PAN's product.

As such, the lawyer demanded the removal of the comparison material, and that the startup stop using PAN's logo and name. We note the videos are still online, hosted by YouTube.

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“It’s outrageous that the world’s largest cybersecurity vendor, its products being used by over 65,000 organizations according to its website, believes that its users aren’t entitled to share any benchmark or performance comparison of its products,” said Orca.

The lawyer’s letter [PDF] claimed Orca violated PAN’s EULA fine-print, something deputy general counsel Melinda Thompson described in her missive as “a clear breach” of terms “prohibiting an end user from disclosing, publishing or otherwise making publicly available any benchmark, performance or comparison tests… run on Palo Alto Networks products, in whole or in part.”

Shua told The Register Orca tried to give its rival a fair crack of the whip: “Even if we tried to be objective, we would have some biases. But we did try to do it as objectively as possible, by showing it to users: creating labs, screenshots, and showing how it looks like.” The fairness of the review, we note, is not what is at issue here: PAN forbids any kind of benchmarking and comparison of its gear.

Palo Alto networks declined to comment when contacted by The Register.

Orca’s boss believes a law in PAN’s home state of California makes it impossible to prohibit the publishing of reviews, and also cited a case in New York where prosecutors sued McAfee, under its short-lived corporate name of Network Associates Inc, for banning reviews in its EULAs.

When asked what he thought the outcome of this latest battle would be, Shua said he hoped PAN would “simply remove these clauses from the EULA,” insisting “so many people from the industry” don’t support bans on reviews. He also added, in another shot across PAN’s bows, that if formal legal action ensues, “it’ll cost us a lot of money but it won’t break Orca. I’m not going to be bullied into not doing something because someone else has deeper pockets.” ®


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