Sony is finding itself in another court battle over patents, as Canadian digital security firm Certicom this week filed suit against the company and a handful of its subsidiaries, alleging infringements on patents it holds for elliptic curve cryptography.
Elliptic curve cryptography can be used as a way to secure communications between electronic devices, preventing interception or altering of a signal, and Certicom is alleging that Sony's uses of Advanced Access Content System (AACS) and Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) specifications violate its patents. A host of Sony products are named in the suit as infringing devices, including the PlayStation 3, its games, all Blu-ray products, certain high-definition TVs, and DTCP-enabled, i.Link-equipped Vaio PCs.
Certicom filed the suit in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, although none of the involved companies are based there. The American Tort Reform Association named Marshall, Texas, in its "Judicial Hellholes 2006" report, saying that plaintiffs in patent litigation win their cases 78 percent of the time there, as opposed to 59 percent nationwide. In a conference call with investors, Certicom president and CEO Bernard Crotty explained, "This district has acquired substantial expertise in this type of litigation, and has a history of proceeding to trial in a timely manner."
Crotty said Certicom had been in discussions with Sony about the issue for a significant amount of time. He said the company's preference would have been to license their technology to Sony, but turned to legal recourse as a result of the lack of progress from those talks. Finally, he said that the company is looking into licensing agreements with other companies using DTCP and AACS technology, and that it's entirely possible similar suits would be brought against others in the future. (The HD-DVD format also uses the AACS standard.)
Certicom is seeking damages with interest and legal fees, as well as a permanent injunction preventing future infringements, or, failing that, a compulsory ongoing license fee for use of the patent. The company has previously licensed the rights to its elliptic curve cryptography patents to a number of clients, including the National Security Agency, which uses it "to protect US and allied government information."
As of press time, Sony had not responded to requests for comment.