Fortinet has accused cybersecurity competitor Forescout of violating three patents associated with the Bradford Networks network access control (NAC) technology that Fortinet acquired in 2018.
The platform security vendor claims that Forescout’s CounterACT NAC software – including the CounterACT appliance and virtual appliance – violate patents held by Fortinet, according to a complaint filed Friday. Fortinet’s complaint also accuses Forescout of patient infringement for its 5100 Series appliances, its SecureConnector authentication software, and its Network Module.
“While Fortinet and Bradford have remained steadfast in their commitment to cybersecurity innovations, Defendant Forescout’s business focus by contrast has changed over the years,” Fortinet wrote in a 24-page US District Court filing with California’s Northern District. “Rather than innovate on its own, Forescout has instead followed Fortinet’s and Bradford’s technological leadership.”
Fortinet told CRN USA in a statement that it doesn’t take litigation lightly and has only engaged in lawsuits to protect its intellectual property on seldom occasions when it is left no alternative. But Forescout’s wrongful incorporation of Fortinet’s intellectual property into its product offerings is “material” and goes to the heart of Fortinet’s business, according to the statement. Forescout declined to comment.
The lawsuit comes as the proposed $1.9 billion acquisition of Forescout by private equity firm Advent International was put on ice.
In the complaint, Fortinet said it attempted to initiate licensing talks with Forescout on Feb. 27, giving background on Fortinet’s patent portfolio and a detailed licensing proposal. Fortinet claims it send 12 more pieces of correspondence to Forescout over a two-and-a-half-month period, but Forescout refused to have internal business employees discuss the matter with Fortinet business representatives.
Forescout finally agreed to allow its outside counsel to speak with Fortinet on April 24, at which point Fortinet said it detailed its prior licensing practices and identified the specific patents that Forescout’s technology was infringing upon. Fortinet claimed that Forescout committed on the call to responding the next week, but then reneged on that commitment.
“Forescout still has not indicated a willingness to remedy its unauthorized use of Fortinet’s intellectual property, or given an indication that they are in fact engaging in good faith discussions to try to do so,” Fortinet wrote in the complaint.
All of the Forescout products mentioned in the lawsuit are accused of infringing upon a June 2013 patent held by Fortinet that details a “system and method for offloading IT network tasks.” Products such as the Forescout 5100 Series that use the method described in the patent of delegating control of computer network access from network administrators to sponsors are in violation, the suit claims.
The Forescout products are also allegedly in violation of a June 2016 Fortinet patent for “network access control system and method for devices connecting to network using remote access control methods.” Products such as Forescout’s VPN Concentrator plugin that allow remote devices to connect to a network violate Fortinet’s patented access for out-of-band control of network access, the lawsuit claims.
The Forescout products are finally accused of violating an April 2018 patent held by Fortinet for “providing security in a communication network.” The Forescout products referenced in the lawsuit define legitimate traffic based on source or destination address and disable threat prevention features based on traffic types, which Fortinet said infringes upon the method described in its June 2018 patent.
“Despite its knowledge of Fortinet’s patent portfolio and asserted patents, Forescout continues to sell the accused protects and services in complete and reckless disregard of Fortinet’s patent rights,” Fortinet wrote in the complaint.
Fortinet agreed to buy Bradford Networks in June 2018 for $17 million plus up to $2 million in earnouts. Bradford was a pioneer in Internet of Things and guest management security, and invented the first Adaptive Network Security (ANS) platform that automatically responds and securely provisions network resources based on pre-established policies, according to Fortinet.