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Symantec pulls utility from stores

The company is yanking its Norton Uninstall Deluxe utility, much to the delight of its bitter rival Network Associates.

Symantec is busy uninstalling its Norton Uninstall Deluxe utility from the shelves of computer shops, and software rival Network Associates is rubbing Symantec's nose in the latter's inglorious legal position.

Network Associates--owner of the McAfee utility software maker--trumpeted a Symantec recall notice today, saying in a statement that Symantec had issued a "Notice of Recall" that "informs all companies selling [Norton Uninstall Deluxe] that continued sales may expose them to liability for contributory infringement of McAfee's copyrights."

The move is significant, because Symantec now is removing the products from store shelves, instead of just stopping sales into retail channels, according to Network Associates' John Staudenraus.

But Symantec spokesman Richard Saunders said the legal issues that led to the recall were settled weeks ago. "I can't theorize why they would issue a press release that has no news value to it at all," he said.

The utility software sector has been a hot one recently, with Network Associates and Symantec purchasing smaller companies that make programs for uninstalling software, fighting viruses, repairing disks, and other utilities.

Norton Uninstall Deluxe, designed to thoroughly clean unwanted software off Windows computers, was the victim of a copyright lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by Cybermedia, a company McAfee later purchased. In a preliminary injunction September 3, the judge for the U.S. District Court's San Jose Division sided with Cybermedia and issued an injunction ordering Symantec to recall the copies of Norton Uninstall Deluxe with the offending code.

After the injunction, Symantec announced that it didn't have to recall its product because the company had created a "clean room" version that didn't have any offending code. But a week later, the judge issued another injunction forbidding distribution of that version as well, Saunders said.

Symantec then decided it would just be easier to withdraw its uninstall utility altogether, Saunders said. Symantec reasoned, "Regardless of who's right and wrong here, we're gong to voluntarily remove it from the market and remove any confusion from the customers' minds," Saunders said.

Replacing it will be the version of CleanSweep, developed by Quarterdeck, a utility company Symantec is in the process of acquiring.

In the meantime, Symantec is shipping its SystemWorks bundle with the uninstaller utility Remove-It 98, an uninstall utility Symantec licensed from Quarterdeck to make sure its SystemWorks bundle was complete, Saunders said.