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Wowza Denies Adobe's Allegations of Patent Infringement

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When Adobe filed a lawsuit against Wowza Media Systems earlier this month—claiming patent infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition—attendees at Streaming Media East reacted not with surprise at the filing, but surprise at the fact that the suit was filed a full five years after Wowza came to market with its multiprotocol streaming server solution, one that provided a cheaper alternative to Adobe's own Flash Media Server while also offering the ability to serve via other protocols.

Whether it was Wowza's success in the market—the company recently introduced version 3 of the server, and claims more than 70,000 licensees of Wowza Media Server—or some other factor, Adobe filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on May 6, alleging that Wowza is infringing on Adobe's Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) and Encrypted RTMP (RTMPe) patents. While the complaint does not explicitly accuse Wowza founders David Stubenvoll and Charlie Good—both former Adobe employees—of stealing intellectual property, the language of Adobe's complaint implies that accusation, stating that Stubenvoll and Good were "let go by Adobe in 2005 as part of a reduction in force following Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia." Macromedia, of course, originated Flash and its RTMP streaming protocol.

Yesterday, Wowza filed a response to Adobe's complaing, calling Adobe's lawsuit "unfounded and spurious," and asserting that Stubenvoll and Good left Adobe voluntarily prior to the completion of the Macromedia acquisition, and that the company developed its version of RTMP and RTMPe "without any access to Macromedia's or Adobe's source code for the RTMP and RTMPe technology." In addition to claiming that Wowza does not infringe on Adobe's U.S. Patents No. 7,272,658 and No. 7,587, 509, Wowza's response claims that those patents do not appear to cover any versions of RTMPe. Wowza also says that RTMPe is "not a strong selling point" for Wowza, and that the open-source "RED 5" Flash server implements its own versions of RTMP and RTMPe.

Wowza also claims that even if it did infringe on either patent, it would be granted a license under the RTMP Specification License openly provided by Adobe in April 2009. "The purpose of Wowza's version of RTMPe is not 'circumvention' as alleged by Adobe," the response says. "On the contrary, WMS protects content using security schemes and does not 'circumvent' any security schemes including RTMPe."

Wowza also rejects Adobe's claims of false advertising and unfair competition, claiming that "[Wowza] customers know that Wowza's version of RTMPe is not authorized by Adobe and that it is Wowza's independently-created approach to security protection for its licensees and the industry as a whole."

The court document also claims that Wowza first disclosed its version of RTMP to Adobe in an April 2006 meeting, and in October 2007 sought a business relationship with Adobe "so that the streaming industry may obtain the benefit of both companies' approaches to media streaming in a vibrant, competitive market." Wowza claims that it has had "many discussions" with Adobe over the past three-and-a-half years.

In its response, Wowza is asking the court to dismiss all of Adobe's claims, and also requested a jury trial on the matter.

Streaming Media has requested further comment from Wowza and Adobe, and will update this article if we receive it.

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