Symantec Sues IT Cloud Security Vendor Zscaler For Patent Infringement

Symantec has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Zscaler alleging the cloud security vendor violated seven of its patents in its portfolio.

Zscaler offers a security platform that uses a cloud-based firewall proxy architecture to deliver a full portfolio of software-as-a-service web and network security solutions. The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Delaware, claims that Zscaler violated Symantec's patents around web security, DLP, threat prevention, access control and antivirus.

The lawsuit affects U.S. Patent Nos. 6,279,113; 7,203,959; 7,246,227; 7,392,543; 7,735,116; 8,181,036; and 8,661,498. Symantec said it will continue to investigate its patents and may file further lawsuit claims if necessary.

[Related: Symantec CEO Takes Aim At Cylance, Other Next-Gen Security Vendors As Blue Coat Integration Gets Under Way]

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"We have an obligation to our customers and our shareholders to defend our intellectual property when we believe it has been infringed, and the lawsuit filed against Zscaler is intended to stop them from copying our pioneering technologies in network security," Scott Taylor, Symantec’s executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, said in a statement about the lawsuit. "Since 2004, Symantec has invested over $10 billion in R&D to provide our customers with innovative technologies, and much of that investment is protected by our portfolio of more than 2,000 United States patents. Today’s action is a necessary step to defend our valuable ideas and assets that Symantec customers rely on for industry-leading cyber defense."

In an email statement, Zscaler Chief Legal Officer Robert Schlossman said the company is still assessing the company's claims.

"We learned of Symantec's lawsuit from their press release issued earlier this afternoon and are in the very early stages of assessing their claims. While we are unable to comment on the merits of their claims at this time, we defend ourselves vigorously against lawsuits of this nature," Schlossman said.

The lawsuit is the latest example of an increasingly combative tone at Symantec towards its competition, a rhetoric that hasn't necessarily been present at the vendor in months and years past. Symantec, in particular, has gone after its competition in the next-generation endpoint security market, with CEO Greg Clark recently calling out Cylance, Carbon Black and Tanium, as well as taking shots at Sophos and Proofpoint, claiming the technologies were merely "trendy" and lacked effectiveness.

Partners have also noticed this shift in tone at Symantec, particularly since the company brought in new leadership from its Blue Coat acquisition, which closed in August. One partner executive, who did not want to be named, said "this is new" for Symantec to be so combative, though said the recent shots at Zscaler are "kind of out of nowhere."

"We need to step up and be a leader and continue to be a leader," the partner executive said.

The challenge, the partner said, is that Symantec needs to be careful that partners don't get caught in the crosshairs, as many of them partner with other vendors, including Zscaler.

"It’s tough," the partner said, as his company partners with both Zscaler and Symantec, among many others. "I'm going to be stuck right in the middle of it."