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27 February 2013, 16:43

Dell, Apple, HP and others sued over file encryption patent

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At the US Federal Court for the District of Delaware, MAZ Encryption Technologies has filed complaints against Apple, BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion), Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, and Toshiba, accusing them of infringing on US patent number 7,096,358, which is owned by the company. The patent describes an automated technique for encrypting and decrypting files when they are closed, opened or edited. The associated key is stored on a portable device such as a smartcard.

The complaint against Apple (1-13-cv-00299) doesn't state which of the 15 patent claims are thought to have been violated. It only talks about iOS. The first 10 claims describe the decryption process, which involves an SQL server and an electronic document management system. The remaining five claims deal with the encryption.

The encryption and decryption mechanisms are based on the obsolete DES algorithm; other techniques are only mentioned in examples. The 2003 patent application says that DES is considered a "strong encryption" mechanism. However, US government institutions had already publicised AES as a more resilient successor in late 2001. Dell uses at least 3DES, and alternatively AES from 128 bits, for its Data Protection component. Toshiba bases its notebook protection on the TPM hardware, which uses asymmetric RSA encryption. Apple's hardware encryption also uses AES.

Stephen Zizzi applied for the patent in 2003. At the time, Zizzi was Chief Technology Officer at MAZ Technologies, a company that specialises in encryption technologies. In 2008, the company sued Microsoft over alleged infringements. However, the lawsuit ended without a ruling because the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement. In October 2012, MAZ Technologies transferred the patent to a company called Empire IP LLC, which then transferred it to MAZ Encryption Technologies on 13 February 2013. It is believed likely that Zizzi and the former President of MAZ Technologies, Chris Mahne, are behind this company.


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