I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll just have to say it again: China has just so many unique natural places of off-the-scale beauty. Mountains, multicolored rocks, brightly-colored lakes. So much beauty that a trip to China is fast becoming a yearly tradition for me.
Ok, so here I was – back in China for this year’s portion of picturesqueness. First up this time: Huangshan, aka and literally meaning Yellow Mountain. We were here last year, but that didn’t count as we saw hardly anything of the place due to a thick fog. That’s why we made a beeline for it this year given the clement weather upon arrival. We wanted to finally see what all the fuss is about re this place – so many folks on the internet say how out-of-this-world stunning it is…
Well what can I say? I can say the internet doesn’t (always:) lie. This place is just oh-my-gobsmackingly gorgeous! A jagged-ragged mountain range, granite rock (the stone has a slightly yellow hue to it, therefore the name (黄山)), jutting rock columns with sheer cliff faces and pine trees on the thin peaks. But why am I trying to describe it in words? They will always be lacking no matter how descriptive. Just check out the pics instead:
I’m often asked why we choose to fight patent trolls. After all, might it be easier – and more economically feasible – to simply give in, pay the relatively small fee they’re after, and be done with it and get back to work?
That does seem to be the accepted wisdom for a lot of IT companies targeted by trolls. But not for KL. There’s a principle involved. Also, there’s the not small issue of saving not small sums of money over the years. ‘How much?’, you may ask. Well let’s just work it out today. The results, below, might surprise you. In fact, it turns out that fighting parasites costs less than allowing them to nibble little by little at our bank balance.
But first, a lyrical digression to demonstrate how things usually go down when dealing with patent actions:
First off, information about a new patent infringement lawsuit brought against IT Company X appears in the official court publication. Immediately after this, Company X is inundated with letters and phone calls from law firms offering to assist in dealing with the lawsuit, each firm insisting it would do the job much better than all others.
Now, I’ve written this before, and I’ve upset quite a few folks in doing so, but, well, I’m sorry, I just have to repeat it once more as it does appear that folks need reminding about it.
There are different types of ‘lawyers’: there are honest lawyers; there are crafty ‘consumer champion‘ lawyers; and then there’s another set: legal sales pseudo-lawyers. These belong to the rare breed of… con-artists psychologists in expensive suits with authoritative appearances and persuasive patters (anecdotes, witticisms, shrewd observations, success stories…), all of which add up to a convincing impression of reliability and trustworthiness. Oh, and they always want you to sign on the dotted line quickly. So you sign it. Next kicks in the standard scenario: much frenzied ‘work’ is done by the legal sales guys, creating mountains of documentation: petitions, motions, whatever. And all simply to give the impression that signing up with them was the right thing to do, and everything’s going to work out just fine as you’ve got these busy bees working for you.
However, eventually all the hustle and bustle comes to a halt… the legal sales guys suggest ending the legal process through an out-of-court settlement. Of course, that means a payment to the plaintiff and a hefty fee for themselves (which together is often equal to the initial $ demands of the patent troll). However, Company X is made to believe that it has secured itself a great victory, all based on their inimitable legal genius.
And everyone’s happy – Company X, the plaintiff, the lawyers. And that’s how the system works. Company X folks may have a sneaky feeling – especially at night – that somewhere, somehow, something ain’t right, but they just banish such treasonous thoughts further into the back of their minds so as not to get upset.
Alas, that’s how the great majority of patent court cases end up if an outside consultant is brought in. But why? Because otherwise the consultant would have to actually get to know the company’s products, the technologies used, the documentation, and so on. Doing all that takes a long time. Much easier is to go for an out-of-court settlement and all that work is avoided.
Not that the above scenario is the only one possible. We know patent lawyers and law firms that diligently did do the hard work and eventually were successful – and not only in cases on recognition of patents’ invalidity, but also those on noninfringement of patents.
Still, more than 10 years ago, we took a decision to develop our own patent department. Why?
Because we understood that, (i) with the development of the business there’d be a proportionate increase in the number of trolls wanting to latch onto us; (ii) there was no point in expecting outsiders to help (see the digression above); and (iii) such a department of our own experts would be able to earn the company a decent side income in other ways. Calculations/projections were made, and the department was set up. Fast forward more than a decade, and those calculations/projections have turned out to be fairly accurate (see below).
I’ve already told you about how we do things in the patent courts. All cases were ‘dismissed with prejudice‘ or ‘denied’ (which is almost the same thing). Total funds paid out to patent trolls and to plaintiffs in class action cases: $0. But how much might we have paid? Let’s calculate it:
1. IPAT vs KL: we were looking at payment of 3-5% of our turnover in the U.S. over three years (~$8mln);
2. Lodsys vs KL: $25mln;
3. Device Security vs KL: $1.2mln;
4. Three court cases with Uniloc: initially it was assumed that the demands would be similar to those this troll hit Electronics Art with – $5mln – for each case, but in the end Uniloc realized there was zero chance of that happening, so it announced it wanted $1.8mln off us for all three cases. So far, two of those three have been closed in our favor; the third – soon;
5. Wetro Lan vs KL: our efforts saw the case thrown out even before their demands were announced; therefore, we’ll take the minimum expected amount – $1mln;
6. A Class action just like the one against Symantec, the costs of which we’ll take as our reference: $2mln to the plaintiff’s lawyers, $9 (!) to each ‘injured’ person, plus a free three-month license for their commercial product;
7. A Japanese company (I can’t tell you which) sought 5% of our turnover in Japan, supposedly for patent infringement. What’s more, we’d have automatically received the exact same infringement action in the U.S., since issuance to it of a similar patent had already been approved there by the time we’d finalized our negotiations;
8. A claim of a tech partner for compensation of $800,000 for its losing a case for patent infringement of its own product: dismissed.
All the above-mentioned potential costs to us: $70 million! That’s without taking into account a mass of other claims and demands, which were successfully rejected by our team long before compensation was announced. And also not taking into account other non-patent cases like the recent antimonopoly proceedings against Microsoft: the benefits of our victory there are difficult to measure with money, since on the line was the multibillion-dollar business of thousands of developer companies and their partners.
And there’s another knock-on effect of our always sticking to our firm position not to settle with patent trolls: we get hit with far fewer patent infringement actions in the first place. Trolls know we never give in, so they give up trying their luck – more so now, since we’ve started hitting back at the trolls with demands for them to pay our court costs. But quite how much we’ve saved on this account is just too tricky to estimate, so we’ll just have to leave it out.
Still, we can look at our competitors for at least some idea as to how our principled stance has reduced the number of lawsuits heading our way. Over the last 10 years here’s how many patent infringement lawsuits they’ve received:
Symantec – 41; McAfee – 19; TrendMicro – 20; Sophos – 13; Avast – 11.
KL – 8!
Yet we all use very similar technologies, and in theory every lawsuit could be duplicated and directed at any or all other cybersecurity developers. And just for an indication of the sums involved for just one case: last year Sophos lost a patent infringement case against Finjan and had to fork out $15mln (!!).
So there you have it folks: the proof of the patent pudding is in the eating having your own patent department – it saves you much more than you’d spend feeding trolls. Having our own department also allows us to deal with other law-related stuff, like legal expert analyses of products to be released, due diligence, and development of our patent portfolio in the U.S., the cost of which is now estimated at more than $100mln.
Finally, the above-mentioned also confirms the validity and correctness in our motto with regard to patent trolls: ‘We fight to the last bullet – their last bullet!’.
Besides a market for its goods or services, a business also needs resources. There are financial resources: money; human resources: employees; intellectual resources: business ideas, and the ability to bring them to life. For some businesses, sometimes even for whole industries, another resource is needed: trust.
Let’s say you decide to buy… a vacuum cleaner. Is trust required of the manufacturer? Not really. You simply buy what seems like the right vacuum cleaner for you, based on a few things like its technical characteristics, how it looks, its quality, and its price. Trust doesn’t really come into it.
However, in some industries, for example finance or medicine, trust plays a crucial role. If someone doesn’t trust a certain financial advisor or pharmaceutical brand, he/she is hardly going to become their client/buy their products – and perhaps never will. Until, that is, the financial advisor/pharma company somehow proves that they are actually worthy of trust.
Well, our business – cybersecurity – not only requires trust, it depends on it. Without it, there can be no cybersecurity. And some folks – for now, let’s just call them… detractors – they know this perfectly well and try to destroy people’s trust in cybersecurity in all manner of ways; and for all manner of reasons.
You’d think there might be something wrong with our products if there are folks trying to undermine trust in them. However, as to the quality of our products, I am perfectly untroubled – the results of independent tests show why. It’s something else that’s changed in recent years: geopolitical turbulence. And we’ve been caught right in the middle of it.
A propaganda machine rose up and directed its dark arts in our direction. A growing number of people have read or heard of unsubstantiated allegations against us, originating in part from media reports that cite (unverifiable) anonymous sources. Whether such stories are influenced by the political agenda or a commercial need to drive sales is unclear, but false accusations shouldn’t be acceptable (just as any other unfairness shouldn’t be.) So we challenge and disprove every claim made against us, one by one. And I choose this verb carefully there: disprove (quick reminder: they have never proved anything; but of course they haven’t: none exists as no wrongdoing was ever done in the first place.)
Anyway, after almost a year since the last wave of allegations, I decided to conduct a sort-of audit of my own. To try and see how the world views us now, and to get an idea as to whether people exposed to such stories have been influenced by them. And to what extent our presentation of the facts has allowed them to make up their own minds on the matter.
And guess what, we found that if people take into account only the facts… well – I have good news: the allegations don’t wash! Ok, I can hear you: ‘show us the evidence!’
Really simple, but enormously useful: on Gartner Peer Insights, the opinions of corporate customers are collected, with Gartner’s team vetting the process to make sure there’s no vendor bias, no hidden agendas, no trolling. Basically, you get transparency and authenticity straight from end-users that matter.
Last year, thanks to the feedback from corporate customers, we were named the Plantinum winner for the 2017 Gartner Peer Insights Customer Choice for Endpoint Protection Platforms! This year’s results aren’t all in yet, but you can see for yourself the number of customers that wanted to tell Gartner about their experience of us and give their overall ratings, and leave positive reviews. Crucially, you can see it’s not a ‘review factory’ at work: they’re confirmed companies of different sizes, profiles, geography and caliber.
And talking of geography – turns out that in different regions of the world attitudes to trust can differ.
Take, for example, Germany. There, the question of trust in companies is taken very seriously. Therefore, the magazine WirtschaftsWoche regularly publishes its ongoing research into levels of trust in companies after polling more than 300,000 people. In the ‘software’ category (note – not antivirus or cybersecurity), we are in fourth place, and the overall level of trust in KL is high – higher than for most direct competitors, regardless of their country of origin.
Then we see what happens when governments use facts to decide whether to trust a company or not. Example: last week the Belgian Centre for Cyber Security researched the facts regarding KL and found they didn’t support the allegations against us. After which the prime minister of Belgium announced that there is no objective technical data – not even any independent research – that indicates our products could pose a threat. To that I would personally add that, theoretically, they could pose a threat, but no more than any other cybersecurity product from any other company from any other country. Because theoretically any product could have vulnerabilities. But taking into consideration our technology transparency efforts, I’d say that our products pose less of a threat than any other products.
No facts of any wrongdoing. Instead – clear commitment to cooperate & industry-leading practices for transparency.
— Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) October 31, 2018
As you can no doubt tell by these pics, I was recently in China. In fact, a trip to China is becoming a bit of an autumn tradition already, timed perfectly to catch the lull after National Day Golden Week holidays (in honor of the founding of the People’s Republic), during which practically the whole country takes the full week off work. It’s a bit like the first week of every year in Russia: the whole country comes to a stop. Don’t even try getting anything done – work-wise (no ones’ working) or tourism-wise (the locals are doing the home-grown tourism thing so the lines you have to wait in are just silly).
Apparently, some 700,000,000 Chinese (!) were on the move during this this year’s Golden Week. Yes folks, you did read that right: a full eight zeroes there! So as I say, best to keep away during Golden Week. The week after though: knock yourself out! All the parks, cities… in fact any tourist attractions are practically empty – for a good two weeks.
Which is just as well, for China – being as massive as it is – has a lot of phenomenal natural beauty that needs checking out. I mean, the country is number two in the world on the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (after Italy). Formidable rock formations, voluptuous valleys overgrown with gorgeous greenery, lovely brightly-colored lakes, and more – ensuring China has a full 10 entries on my list of the Top-100 Most Beautiful Places in the World (+ six bonus tracks:). And this list of mine I occasionally edit as and when new places need adding. And they need adding in China more than in most other countries. See for yourself:
As strange as it may seem, I’ve explored more of Australia than any other continent. I’ve been to lots of its many uniquely beautiful places, and plan on getting to the ones I’ve missed so far very soon. Outstanding ocean coastline and endless desert, multicolored rock formations, waterfalls, white beaches – Australia has them all. And if you add to that powerful mix kangaroos, koalas and crocs, what you get is one fascinating country!
Sure, Kimberley takes forever to get to, but its limitless landscapes and venerable views are more than worth the trouble getting here. A week is too short a time for a full and proper ‘see everything’ visit (as I found out during my week long trip). And you really do need to get your route and logistics planned well in advance. Try to get here during a full moon or new moon – when the tides are the highest and the horizontal waterfalls gush the hardest! I’ve been just the once; my impressions are here. I long to get back soon. I’ve even drawn up a list of the must-sees I, erm, must see!
During a recent flight I was overcome by some aviational-contemplative-meditative mega-good vibes. They were brought on by the super weather outside my window for almost the whole flight.
Said wonderful weather caused me to peer out of my window for most of the journey. Curiously, during the short time we were flying over the Persian Gulf, I saw not one plane flying nearby (a rarity), but two! I realize the airspace around these parts is fairly chokka with planes, but I wasn’t expecting… this:
As regular readers of this here blog of mine will already know, I’m rather into modern art. But when art somehow merges with the anything IT-related, I’m the world’s biggest fan. Well, such a merging is taking place right now in Moscow in its Museum of Modern Art with the exhibition Daemons in the Machine, so supporting it was a no brainer. Artists, consulted by scientists, aimed their creativity at the modern-day topics of artificial intelligence (which, IMHO, is hardly any intelligence at all – just smart algorithms), blockchain, neural networks and robotics. The result is a curious mix of futurology, ethics and – of course – art.
I haven’t been myself as I’m only just back from my latest trip, but I hope to find time for a visit before my next one.
And now, we move from high-art digital demons to everyday, run-of-the-mill – but very worrying – digital demons…
My friends and I have a bit of a tradition that goes back years.
Each time we find ourselves at the seaside – or ocean side – we make sure we get in that sea/ocean for a spot of bathing/paddling/swimming. But it’s not just seas and oceans; also a river or a lake… in fact, any body of water must be entered and our bodies fully submerged in.
A stream? In we go! Waterfalls – under we go! A hole in the ice? In we go! Natural – preferably hot – springs? In! (The only bodies of water we refrain from entering are the bubbling-volcanic-sulfuric ones which are extremely harmful to human health.) The best natural bathing places are even entered into a hit-parade (part one; part two). And because the bodies of water can be literally anywhere around the world, there’s no real start or end of the bathing season for us globetrotting H₂O lovers.
For example, we once found ourselves in the New Zealand seaside town of Raglan on New Year’s Eve. After seeing in the New Year (based on local time) we went for a night-dip in the local river, which flows into the Tasman Sea. But New Year was still several hours off back in Moscow. So whether that night-swim signaled the start or the end of the bathing season for us is far from clear.
Fast-forward to this year, however, and things seem a lot clearer cut: looking over my travel itinerary up until the end of the year, it looks like I’ve already ended the bathing season for 2018. ‘Eh? But it’s only October!’ Indeed, but all my appointments are in places where there’s no sea or ocean lakes, or whatever. Oh well. Still, I ended the season with a real bang splash…
At the weekend I was in Dubai, having joined the family there (they’d been there a week already (school holidays and all)). The air temperature hovered around 30°C in the shade, and the sea temperature was about the same too (though it felt cooler)!
Dubai is an undeniably unique place, having risen up out of the desert literally from nothing. It’s what you get when you have plentiful resources and wise management. I’ve written and length about the place before, so I won’t duplicate things here. But though I’ve already hundreds of photos of Dubai and I really don’t need any more, I find I still can’t resist taking a few extra each visit: