Akamai, Digital Island will square off in court

Content distribution service provider Digital Island Inc. is preparing to fight in federal court next week against an injunction request filed by its competitor, Akamai Technologies Inc. in the continuing battle over the company's content delivery patents.

Akamai seeks an injunction against the operation of Digital Island's Footprint caching service, claiming patent infringement on Akamai's FreeFlow service. Akamai and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a patent infringement suit against Digital Island in September in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

MIT's patent, US6108703, is for "a network architecture or framework that supports hosting and content distribution on a truly global scale."

"The inventive framework allows a content provider to replicate and serve its most popular content at an unlimited number of points throughout the world. The inventive framework comprises a set of servers operating in a distributed manner," reads the text of the patent, available through a patent-listing service. MIT received the patent on Aug. 22, in the names of Tom Leighton, Akamai's chief scientist, and Danny Lewin, Akamai's chief technology officer.

"Their contention is that Footprint infringes on Freeflow," said Howard Lasky, Digital Island's chief counsel. Digital Island maintains that its patents predate Akamai's, and Digital Island has filed an interference claim of its own with the US Patent and Trademark Office, as well as an infringement case in a federal court in California. Dave Farber, Digital Island's chief systems strategist, filed for a patent in 1995 for "fingerprinting" content to track data. "We believe we'll prevail on the merits of the case," he said.

When the companies first filed their claims in September, both were billion dollar businesses. With the shakeout in the technology sector, Digital Island is currently worth about US$380 million, a third of its September value, while Akamai is now worth about $2.9 billion, 40 percent of its September value.

Digital Island, based in San Francisco, can be contacted at +1-415-738-4100 or at http://www.digitalisland.com/. Akamai Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-617-250-3000 or on the Web at http://www.akamai.com/.

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