The suits have been filed in U.N District Court of Northern District of Illinois, feature the assertion of single patent technique to combat online software privacy by protecting executable computer program from unauthorized use.

U.S. Patent No. 6330549:

The functionality of “protected shareware” is controlled by digitally signed messaging protocol. Protective code within the shareware controls the functionality of the shareware in response to authorization messages which are supplied directly or indirectly by the shareware supplier. These messages are digitally signed in whole or part by or on behalf of the shareware supplier using the supplier’s secret signing key. The shareware, in turn, includes the public checking key for this digital signature of the supplier, thereby enabling the protective code to authenticate any such authorization message before acting in reliance upon it. The shareware includes an integrity self-checking routine which is run at appropriate times to ensure that shareware, including its protective code, is in an anticipated state. Typically this is equivalent to a finding that the code has not been altered, but it is conceivable that the code might be dynamically altered in some authorized (i.e., “anticipated”) way.

Protected Shareware

It claims a method for protecting a computer program from unauthorized use independently of any methodology for distributing the computer program to prospective users, the method including the steps of inhibiting functional features of the program running on a user computer until the user receives an authorization message digitally signed by an authorized party, providing embedded checking code with access to a public key, running an integrity self-check over the computer program to confirm that the program is in an anticipated state, applying the public checking key to the authorization message and enabling functional features to run on the user computer if the authorization message is authenticated and the self-check is successful. The invention provides a cost-effective method for providing adequate protection against unauthorized use, especially in commercial applications.

Allegation by Venadium

Venadium LLC filed a series of five patent infringement suits against well-known entities in the insurance, hotel accommodation and industrial supply space. In each of the five Infringement suits Venadium is alleging that the defendants each infringe upon the above mentioned patent, through the operation of their companies main website. Defendants named in the lawsuits filed in N.D. Ill. include Blooming, IL-based insurance provider State Farm Automobile Insurance Company; Northfield Township, IL-based insurance provider Allstate Insurance. Lake Forest, IL-based industrial supply firm W.W. Grainger Inc.); Arlington Heights, IL-based cloud payroll provider Paylocity Corporation); and Chicago, IL-based hotel accommodations provider Hyatt Hotels Corporation. In each case, Venadium’s allegations focus on logon procedures which authenticate site users using code instituting an HTTPS connection, a hashed-based message authentication code to perform a self-check and use of a public checking key.

Followed Suits

These suits, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.), argue similar allegations of patent infringement against websites operated by Swiss drugmaker Novartis and San Francisco-based online wine retailer Wine.com. Last September, Venadium asserted the ‘549 patent against a series of media companies including BuzzFeed, Spotify, The Washington Post, JD Power and LivingSocial.