Juniper Vs. Palo Alto: Next-Gen Firewall Legal Brawl

Juniper Networks says that Palo Alto Networks is infringing on its next-generation firewall technology, which was invented by Palo Alto's founders but for which Juniper holds the patents.

Juniper claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that Palo Alto's founders knew Juniper had filed for patents on the technology, but went ahead and used it anyway to create competing firewalls.

COMING SOON: Ubiquitous surveillance from Big Brother's wayback machine

Because of that knowledge, Juniper is asking for triple penalties against Palo Alto and that the court block further infringement of the patents. The suit suggests that the penalties should be no less than a reasonable royalty.

A spokesman for Palo Alto says the company does not comment on lawsuits.

Juniper says in an emailed statement, "Juniper focuses on delivering breakthrough innovations for our customers. As a leading high-performance networking company, we will take every appropriate measure to defend and protect our innovation."

The suit claims that former NetScreen executives Nir Zuk and Yuming Mao personally worked on the technology in question. NetScreen was bought by Juniper for $4 billion in 2004.

The complaint says Zuk and Mao are acutely aware of the six patents in question because they participated in filing for more than one of them.

Juniper and Palo Alto are two of the top vendors of enterprise network firewalls along with Check Point, Cisco, Fortinet and McAfee, according to a recent Gartner report on the technology. Palo Alto is listed as a leader, and Juniper is listed as a challenger.

About Palo Alto, Gartner says: "Palo Alto Networks' high-performance NGFW functionality continues to drive competitors to react in the firewall market. It is assessed as a Leader mostly because of its NGFW design, redirection of the market along the NGFW path, consistent displacement of Leaders and Challengers, and market disruption forcing Leaders to react. With a unified single-pass inspection engine, rather than a design of passing traffic to submodules, Palo Alto Networks has maintained performance with relatively few models.

Of Juniper the Gartner report says, "Juniper is assessed as a Challenger for enterprises, because we see Juniper selected in concert with other Juniper offerings, rather than displacing competitors based on its vision or features. During the evaluation period, Juniper appeared to focus more on other areas of its business and did not make significant advances with its firewall products. Juniper is, however, often shortlisted and/or selected in carrier, service provider and data center deployments, primarily because of price and high throughput on its largest appliances."

Infonetics ranks Juniper No. 2 behind Cisco in network security revenues, but its portfolio goes beyond just next-generation firewalls.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 hot cybersecurity trends (and 2 going cold)