A very interesting legal case continues between Chamberlain Corporation (manufacturers of garage door systems) and Skylink (a third party company that sells ‘compatible’ openers), wherein Chamberlain sued Skylink for violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, claiming that its “rolling code” security system was patented, and therefore Skylink reverse-engineering it for the Skylink remote was a patent violation….
From reading the case summary (PDF), I believe that Chamberlain has a valid case and that Skylink is indeed in violation of the software patent when it figured out the rolling code system and reimplemented it on its own garage door openers.
The case is also interesting as it gives a bit of insight into the garage door market. For example:
IV. Skylink’s sale of its model 39 universal transmitter is destroying chamberlain’s market for universal transmitters and chamberlain’s sales of clicker universal transmitters.
Consumers normally buy Chamberlain’s GDOs [garage door openers] with one or more transmitters… since 1998, Chamberlain has sold a line of universal transmitters under the name CLICKER for use either as additional transmitters with Chamberlain’s GDOs or as additional transmitters for GDO’s made by other manufacturers.
… unlike Skylink’s accused model 39 universal transmitter, Chamberlain’s CLICKER universal transmitter does not circumvent security measures for controlling access … for example, the CLICKER does not circumvent the encryption algorithm that is used as a security measure for Genie’s GDOs, and therefore, does not operate Genie’s Intellicode rolling code software.
I believe that Chamberlain has a strong case if indeed the code is patented, and also see some irony that it has a substantial business selling the very same product that Skylink is now marketing with such success.
However, it’s curious that they’ve invoked the DMCA, of all things. The DMCA was intended to protect copyrighted materials on the Internet and through other electronic access systems, and however far you stretch it, it’s impossible to believe that garage door openers were on the short list of technologies to protect. Yet they observe that the DMCA addresses anything that “effectively controls access to a work.”
Makes me wonder if lock companies are going to claim that electronically enhanced locks (even an LED indicator) allow them to utilize the DMCA for legal protection? If so, Matt Blaze at AT&T is bound to get into trouble soon for his dissemination of how to create master keys in today’s New York Times (registration required).
I don’t disagree that Chamberlain has a case against Skylink for violation of patents, note, I’m just surprised and intrigued that the company opted to use the DMCA for the foundation of its legal claim, rather than simply the patent violation, which seems considerably more logical.