Sony, McAfee, sued over software activation patent

Uniloc USA is also suing Activision, Quark, others as follow-up to a similar suit filed against Microsoft over software activation tech.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney

After suing Microsoft for patent infringement, Uniloc USA is now turning its sights on a host of other companies.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in the eastern district of Texas Thursday, Uniloc is alleging that its patent for software activation is being violated by the likes of Sony, McAfee, Activision, Quark, Borland Software, and Aspyr Media.

The patent in question #5,490,216, awarded to Uniloc founder Ric Richardson in 1996, covers a method for registering and activating software locked to one PC. The technology was developed as a way to prevent users from freely installing or copying a single software program to multiple machines.

Legal action was taken to "protect our products and our company," Uniloc CEO Brad Davis said in a statement.

Uniloc has been dueling with Microsoft over the same claim since 2003, alleging that the software activation key used in Windows XP and Office is a violation of the Uniloc patent. A jury ruled in favor of Uniloc in April of 2009, slapping Microsoft with a $388 million fine. But that verdict was overturned on appeal last September as the court then found in favor of Microsoft. Uniloc is appealing the judge's ruling, and the case is scheduled to be heard in September.

Uniloc, a privately-held business in California, sells security products designed to guard against software piracy. Software companies and PC game publishers are among its customers.