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Network Associates' McAfee division has obtained a patent for updating anti-virus software over the Internet in one of the most questionable patent rulings by the US patent office to date.

The anti-virus updating technology described in US Patent 6,296,456, Method and System for Providing Automated Updating and Upgrading of Antivirus Applications Using a Computer Network, "further distinguishes" McAfee brand anti-virus solutions, according to Network Associates.

According to us there's nothing in McAfee's patent, which describes techniques for setting up a local server for the distribution of anti-virus updates and for checking the status of AV protection on client computers. McAfee and its competitors in the enterprise antivirus market have been applying this kind of technology for years.

Last month, McAfee obtained a patent (US 6,266,774) for running security software as a service over the Internet, with a patent that was so widely drawn that it could be interpreted as applying to ASP services in general. After early bullish statements to this effect ("you either work with us or you work around this patent"), Network Associates chief executive Srivats Sampath scaled back the firm's rhetoric on the subject.

After all it wouldn't help McAfee to step on the toes of key partner Microsoft's .Net strategy.

While the software as a services patent might be questionable the latest "innovation" is plainly prior art and it's quite beyond us what the US Patent office is up to. On present form we're tempted to file a patent for a Method and System for Transport Using a Circular Device on a Load Bearing Rod (aka The Wheel). ®

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Network Associates granted new US patent for updating anti-virus over the Internet

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