Montreal-based Zero-Knowledge Systems (ZKS) filed the civil suit on behalf of its newly formed subsidiary Synomos, a specialist in privacy and data-management solutions for corporations. The complaint was filed Tuesday in the District of Montreal of the Superior Court of Quebec.
According to the company, Synomos worked with computer giant IBM from June 2001 to February 2002 to create a standard for writing corporate privacy policies based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), a protocol for exchanging data among computing systems. The standard drew on ZKS's pre-existing protocol, Privacy Rights Markup Language (PRML), which it shared with IBM under a confidentiality agreement. The resulting technical specification, the Enterprise Privacy Markup Language (EPML) 1.0, was released jointly in February 2002.
That specification formed the basis of IBM's Enterprise Privacy Authorization Language, which was licensed to the technical standards body World Wide Web Consortium without ZKS' authorization, according to the complaint. In doing so, IBM violated copyright laws of Canada and civil codes of the province of Quebec, ZKS claimed.
IBM did not return a request for comment. Synomos declined to comment.
ZKS is seeking damages of roughly $5.1 million, plus legal expenses. It is also asking the court for a permanent injunction preventing IBM from licensing the EPAL specification without its consent.
The lawsuit comes as the Privacy Futures conference is being held in San Francisco. Sponsored by privacy seal company Truste and the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the three-day conference centers on corporate data management, privacy compliance and marketing issues in the digital age.
ZKS develops security and privacy tools for corporations. Last week, it spun off its 5-year-old Enterprise Privacy Unit into a wholly owned subsidiary and renamed it Synomos. The new unit is headed up by ZKS co-founder Austin Hill, who will be president and CEO of the new company.