McAfee granted patent on software as a service

McAfee.com announced Monday that it has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office covering the company's method of delivering software as a service through Web browsers.

The patent covers both the business and technology models currently used by McAfee.com to deliver its security, management and optimization services, Srivats Sampath, chief executive officer of McAfee.com, said in an interview with the IDG News Service. The technology, which McAfee.com has been working on since 1998 according to Sampath, integrates a series of scripts, software objects and back-end systems, with a mark-up language like HTML (hypertext markup language) or XML (extensible markup language) to deliver up-to-date applications through a standard Web browser, he said.

McAfee.com has arranged its business model around software as a service, and applied for a patent covering its work in that area, because "we believe it's the future of software delivery," Sampath said, pointing to efforts underway at Microsoft Corp. and other security firms and ASPs (application service providers) to offer similar services.

Having an important patent in a crucial market will only help the company grow, Sampath said. McAfee.com also expects to license the technology to other companies hoping to offer similar services.

"You either work with us or you work around this patent," he said.

The patenting of business models has drawn a good deal of controversy of the past few years. Amazon.com Inc. and Priceline.com Inc. were each granted patents for business methods which critics charge should not have been patentable. Sampath "totally agrees," but says that McAfee.com's patent is different.

"The strengths in this patent are not in the business model; the strengths in this patent are in the technology model," he said. "I'm less focused on the subscription model ... it's the technology model that really matters."