Patent IP will pass from Aptimize to Riverbed

Most staff to shift to company's US HQ: sales team to remain in Wellington until end of year

A patent that is still under application for approval and the transfer of staff from Wellington to the US, are among the issues facing Aptimize as its acquisition by Riverbed Technology is implemented.

Riverbed will retain “the majority” of Aptimize staff, says a Riverbed spokesman. “All the engineers and product team will most likely relocate to San Francisco. The two founders [Ed Robinson and Derek Watson] will take on management positions at Riverbed.

“We will maintain a sales team dedicated to Aptimize in Wellington until the end of the year. After that the sales function will be absorbed into Riverbed’s ANZ sales organisation.

“Given the small size of the Aptimize team we decided it probably made more sense to have them co-located with the rest of the Riverbed engineering team in San Francisco,” he says.

“Their relocation is not a condition of the deal but rather something that they requested. We highly regard and respect New Zealand as a location for world-class software engineers – as evidenced by existence of companies like Weta Digital – but we think it probably makes more sense to have the whole team together at least in the early stages of the integration.

“We are open to the team relocating back to New Zealand at some point if it's the right thing for the Aptimize business and Riverbed overall.

“We are also open to finding other promising start-ups in the ANZ region,” the spokesman adds, noting that UK-based Zeus Technology, which Riverbed acquired at the same time as Aptimize, will continue to maintain its operations in the UK.

“As a global company we are very comfortable with managing distributed engineering and product teams.”

The Aptimize assets that will pass into the hands of Riverbed include patents and at least one software development going through application for patent in New Zealand. The latter is in a race against the New Zealand Patents Bill, which is set to ban patents on software in this country.

“Riverbed has acquired all the assets of the company including the patents,” says a Riverbed spokesman. “Further patent processing will be handled at corporate level.”

The patents relate to software for improving the efficiency of web-page access.

The present text of the bill says “a computer program is not a patentable invention”. A finer series of tests are being crafted by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand according to which patents may be granted for software that has a “physical effect” outside the computer on which it runs; but it is doubtful that a patent would be granted for software to improve the efficiency of the computer it runs on.

The Riverbed takeover is likely to pitch the patent application into the equally uncertain territory of US law. This has no explicit exclusion or inclusion of software in the realm of patent, while the relevance of recent decisions on patentability of business methods to general software patent criteria is disputed.

The spokesman offers no comment on whether Riverbed will consider it worth pursuing more New Zealand patents.

Commentators on previous Computerworld stories have questioned both the existence of prior art (the previous development of a similar idea by someone else) and the obvious process of the innovation claimed in Aptimize’s existing patents.

“Aptimize's patent #566291 represents a simple compilation of existing techniques such as JavaScript aggregation, CSS aggregation and CSS sprites into a convenient proxy server,” wrote Jonathan Hunt, in response to a story earlier this year.

“Each of those [is a] well established technique. Adding them together is not inventive, and should not be worthy of a patent,” he further claimed, in a comment on the Computerworld website.

Aptimize received funding from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Tech NZ shortly after it was established.

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