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McAfee, Symantec sued

McAfee and Symantec are taken to task for alleged patent infringement of computer virus detection techniques.

Trend Micro is suing its two largest competitors, McAfee Associates (MCAF) and Symantec (SYMC), for alleged patent infringement of its computer virus detection techniques.

The complaint, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, charges that McAfee's WebShield and GroupShield antivirus products, as well as Symantec's Norton Antivirus for Internet Email Gateways, infringe on Trend Micro patents for carrying data over the Internet, in electronic mail, and in groupware.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against McAfee and Symantec from making, using, or selling products that infringe on any Trend Micro patented products.

"Were not just in it for the royalty," said Trend Micro's general counsel Bob Lowe. "Our main goal is having the products be prevented from being sold."

The lawsuit also asks the court to prevent McAfee and Symantec from supporting and updating the allegedly infringing products by supplying virus signature patterns for new viruses, renewing licenses, and making new versions or enhancements to their products.

"The reality is that the virus process is a service as much as it is a product," Lowe added. "Any ongoing sales from this point forward are infringing and should be stopped."

The patent issued to Trend Micro on April 22 relates to techniques used to protect computer networks from viruses--that is, antivirus protection on servers, as opposed to desktops.

"I think this is an overbroad patent and we are going to do everything we can do to fight it," said Rebecca Ranninger, director of legal affairs at Symantec. She added that Symantec has yet to be served with the lawsuit.

McAfee could not be reached for comment.

Trend Micro's lawsuit is the second recent claim of infringement against McAfee. Last month, Symantec filed a copyright infringement suit against the company, alleging that rival McAfee has pirated code from Symantec. The lawsuit charges that McAfee's PC Medic program includes a critical section of code that is identical to Symantec's CrashGuard product.

Lowe said Trend Micro is zeroing in on other products and companies that are infringing upon its patent. "You can't sue everybody, and you may not want to take them all to court at the same time, but we'll be in touch with those companies." He added that whatever happens in this case will have a big effect on how other companies perceive the strength of Trend's Micro patent.