5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending Feb. 27

This week's roundup of companies that had a rough week include a jury ruling against Apple that orders the company to pay a $533 million fine in a patent infringement case, Lenovo's hacked website, Intel Security's loss of yet another executive, Aereo's bankruptcy asset auction, and the reported removal of some major IT vendors from the China government's approved vendor list.

Apple Ordered To Pay $533 Million Fine In iTunes Patent Case

Apple has to cough up $533 million in damages after a federal jury in Texas this week found that the company infringed on three patents held by Smartflash, a Tyler, Texas-based patent holder and licenser. The patents relate to digital rights management, data storage and payment systems access management technology that Smartflash said Apple uses in its iTunes service, according to a Bloomberg Business story.

Smartflash had been seeking $852 million in damages in the case while Apple, which said the patents weren't valid and had not been infringed, said the case was worth only $4.5 million. Apple has vowed to appeal, according to Bloomberg.

Later in the week Smartflash sued Apple again for allegedly violating the same parents with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Hackers Hijack Lenovo's Website, Emails

Hackers calling themselves the Lizard Squad took control of the Lenovo.com website this week, redirecting traffic to a slide show and a Twitter account that criticized Lenovo for adding Superfish adware to its consumer PCs. Last week Lenovo came under fire when news of its use of Superfish got out.

The attackers, who said they were acting in protest of Lenovo's use of Superfish, carried out the hijacking by compromising a Lenovo account at domain registrar Web Commerce Communications, according to an Ars Technica story. The hackers were also able to intercept emails sent to Lenovo employees for a time by posting fraudulent MX mail server records.

Intel Security Loses Another Executive

Michael DeCesare, previously president of Intel Security, this week joined ForeScout Technologies as the company's new CEO, making him the third high-level executive to depart from Intel Security -- previously McAfee -- since December.

ForeScout develops network access control and policy compliance technology.

In December Intel Security CTO Michael Fey left the company to become the new chief operating officer at Blue Coat Systems. In January Steve Tchejeyan, a senior vice president at Intel Security who oversaw the company's billion-dollar U.S. business, also defected to Blue Coat where he was named senior vice presiden of Americas sales and field operations.

Cisco, Apple And Other IT Companies Banned From China Government Purchases

Several major IT vendors have been locked out of China's approved state purchase lists in what observers say is a reaction to revelations of widespread U.S. cyber surveillance activities. But others see the change as an effort by China to protect its domestic technology industry from the competition, according to a Reuters story.

Whatever the reason, Apple, Cisco, Citrix and Intel's McAfee security business, among others, now find themselves unable to compete for some technology sales to government entities in China. The lists, according to Reuters, cover smaller-scale direct purchases of IT equipment, and central government bodies can only buy items not on the approved list as part of a competitive tender process.

Aereo Bankruptcy Auction Raises Less Than $2 Million

An auction this week for the assets of Aereo brought in less than $2 million -- far less than the $4 million to $31.2 million the bankrupt company's financial backers had been hoping for.

It was an ignominious ending for Aereo, the once-high-flying company that used tiny antennas to provide streaming TV service to subscribers for $8 a month. Aereo never recovered from a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the company's service violated broadcasters' copyrights. DVR manufacturer TiVo acquired Aereo's customer list and trademark while patent firm RPX bought the company's patent portfolio.

The big losers here? Certainly Aereo's creditors haven't fared well. But the big losers are the investors who sank some $100 million into the company.