CA Technologies sues New Relic over APM patents

Cheaper than just buying it, maybe

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CA Technologies, the former Computer Associates, has thrown a patent sueball at application performance management (APM) software rival New Relic in Federal court.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in the US District Court for the Eastern District in New York, claims that New Relic violated three patents that came into CA's possession through acquisitions. As you can see in the complaint (PDF), CA is alleging that New Relic's software violates patent numbers 7,225,361 B2; 7,512,935 B1; and 7,797,580 B2.

CA got into the APM space in 2006 when it acquired Wily Technology in January 2006 for $375m. Lew Cirne was founder and CEO at Wily, and after sitting out for a few years, he founded New Relic to provide APM tools based on a SaaS platform in 2008.

The company came out of stealth mode in October 2010, having secured three rounds of venture funding totaling $19.5m and with 30 employees and 900 paying customers and 5,600 users overall, including those using its freebie APM service.

New Relic secured a $15m fourth round of funding last November, and has been growing fast, boasting it had set "the pace for unstoppable innovation and growth" in its third quarter, with over 30,000 active users monitoring Java, .NET, PHP, Python and Ruby applications and near triple-digit revenue growth year-on-year. (New Relic is privately held and did not actually provide its revenue and profit figures.)

In its statement, CA said that Cirne is a co-inventor on two of the patents that it alleges New Relic is infringing.

"CA Technologies will not allow its patents to be infringed, especially by those who have already profited by selling to us the very patents in question," said Richard Donoghue, chief counsel for litigation at CA Technologies. "We will vigorously take all steps necessary to ensure that our intellectual property is protected."

The '361 patent is titled Detecting a Stalled Routine and the '580 patent is called Determining that a Routing Has Stalled and Jeffrey Cobb and Lew Cirne are the inventors listed on these presumably very similar patents. (Don't get us started on software patents...) The '935 patent is titled Adding Functionality to Existing Code at Exits, and lists Cobb only as the inventor. Cobb, who was CTO at Wily and worked at CA until September of this year, is now vice president of product management at Qumulo, a Seattle start-up founded by Peter Godman, Neal Fachan, and Aaron Passey, the architects of the Isilon OneFS file system, who have not said what they are up to. (Sounds like a cloud-based file system where you accumulate stuff.)

CA says New Relic is violating the three patents and is requesting a trial by jury plus a permanent injunction restraining New Relic from selling software or services based on the patents.

"We have not seen any details of the lawsuit and cannot comment at this time," Cirne told El Reg by email. "I will say that I'm confident New Relic has conducted business with the utmost integrity. We will continue to do so as we build a software solution that is fast becoming a standard in the industry for its web application performance analytics that deliver immediate value at a fraction of the price charged by traditional vendors."

Maybe the ever-acquisitive CA should just buy New Relic and get it over with? ®

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