Microsoft licenses Finjan security patents

Software giant invests in Finjan, picks up rights to ideas on how to combat previously unknown security threats.

Joris Evers
Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
2 min read
Microsoft has invested in security company Finjan Software and licensed its patents that cover ways to protect systems against previously unknown security threats.

The deal, announced Wednesday, gives Microsoft a minority share in the privately held, San Jose, Calif.-based company. It enables the software giant to use ideas developed by Finjan in future products, said Nick Sears, president of Finjan in the United States.

"It covers a broad range of patents that Finjan has developed and acquired in the last nine years in the security space," Sears said. Financial details of the deal are not being disclosed.

Microsoft has been pushing into the security arena over the past couple years. The company has acquired antivirus and anti-spyware technology and is working on bringing products to market. Also, Microsoft has said security is now top priority when developing its other products.

The technology Microsoft has licensed covers ways to monitor Internet traffic and block malicious code based on security policies, Sears said. The behavior-based system aims to defend corporate networks against viruses and spyware even if the malicious programs are completely new and have never been seen before, he added.

Microsoft has licensed only ideas covered by the patents, but not actual technology such as software code, Sears said. It is entirely up to Microsoft how it will use the patents, Sears said. "What Microsoft chooses to do, in development plans, is not part of this agreement," he said.

Microsoft would not say how it will use Finjan's ideas in products. "Microsoft has licensed nonexclusive patent rights from Finjan pertaining to areas of interest to Microsoft and its efforts to provide customers with innovative security technologies," a company representative said in an e-mailed statement.

The licensing agreement is part of Microsoft's strategy to obtain the rights to technologies that it might use in its lineup. The Redmond, Wash., software giant has signed patent licensing agreements with Sun Microsystems, InterTrust, ContentGuard and Citrix, among others, the representative said.

Finjan expects the licensing agreement with Microsoft to lead to similar agreements with other companies, Sears said. However, it is not transforming itself into an intellectual property licensing company. "We are a product company," Sears said.

Finjan sells appliances for various security tasks, including securing e-mail and Web traffic. Investors include venture capital providers and Cisco Systems.