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Gold'en Rant of the week : When Patent Applications are too wide ranging

Aladdin Knowledge Systems, the digital rights management specialist, has been granted what it calls "a significant US patent."

Ostensibly the patent - number 7,047,369 - is for the safe use of the Internet.

Delving into the patent records, however, reveals it covers "an application operating environment in which dangerous, unacceptable and/or suspect activities of Internet-enabled applications may be defined and prevented from causing harm."

That's pretty broad ranging and covers most applications from spyware right through to more general trojan-delivered malware.

Aladdin says that the patent, which refers to its eSafe content security technology, is quite specific.

But there's more. "The invention covered by this patent allows automatic or manual learning of safe behaviour for host-based applications, especially Internet-enabled applications," says the firm's press release.

"A special table of allowed activities is built in real-time for each monitored application, which is later used by the enforcement module to create a `sandbox' protection environment that blocks invalid access attempts to system resources," it adds.

The patent is back-dated until September 25, 1997, which means - based on my humble interpretation of patents - that most security software released in the last nine years could be covered.

It's all down to Aladdin, of course, and whether/how it pursues third party companies for any alleged infringement of copyright. And defending legal actions of this type, no matter whether an infringement has actually occured or note, is expensive.

Am I alone in viewing wide-ranging patent applications of this type with horror? As a financial advertisement of a few years ago sang: "there may be trouble ahead..."