Symantec has refused to retract its Norton Uninstall Deluxe from the market although a judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the company.
The security software firm is locked in a legal battle with Cyber Media, which has claimed Symantec is now liable to be found in contempt of court, exposing it to damages charges that ?go through the roof?.
?We absolutely are continuing to ship Norton Uninstall Deluxe,? Symantec vice president for security and assistance products Enrique Salem told ?VNU Newswire? on Friday. ?It?s a shame [Cyber Media] are distorting what the Judge said?.
?If they don?t follow this order, and continue shipping this code, the damages will go through the roof. They?ll be in contempt of court,? responded Cyber Media president and chief operating officer, Jim Tolonen.
Both companies also described their opponent?s press releases on the case as ?publicity stunts?.
The legal and technical jumble surrounding Symantec and Cyber Media isn?t about to get any clearer. Both companies have been involved in a murky copyright suit since February.
Last October, Symantec launched Norton Uninstall Deluxe (NUD), a programme that removes unwanted applications from a Windows PC. The product competes with Cyber Media?s established Uninstaller product.
In February 1998, CyberMedia filed a complaint against Symantec, claiming that NUD infringed on its copyrights. Symantec immediately denied the accusations.
Cyber Media has listed a long series of striking similarities between both products, ranging from very similar user interface to some virtually identical help files and error messages. Both products even appear to share a number of common software bugs.
At least some of the similarities were explained by Symantec as consequences of both products containing code licensed from third parties, including a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) licensed from Elltech.
CyberMedia points to the ? undisputed ? fact that NUD was developed by some of the people who earlier had worked on Uninstaller. Timothy O?Pry, Thomas Lynch and Snehal Vashi used to work for a company called Micro Help, that developed the Uninstaller product later acquired by Cyber Media. These same three people later left Micro Help to found Zebra Soft ? the company that developed NUD for Symantec.
Cyber Media is suggesting that the Zebra Soft team took a short cut in developing NUD, working from sourcecode purloined from their previous employer.
Symantec denies that NUD contains sourcecode from Uninstaller. But the company has nevertheless taken the unusual step of redeveloping some parts of its products, resulting in what it is now calling a ?clean room? version of the software.
On Thursday, district judge Jeremy Fogel issued a preliminary injunction. Both parties on Friday issued contradictory press releases interpreting the decision.
Cyber Media claimed the judge had ordered Symantec to retract all copies of NUD. Symantec said the judge had ordered no such thing, and that it would not retract any software.
?Symantec ordered to stop selling, stop advertising and immediately recall? from channel all Norton Uninstall Deluxe titles, according to a Cyber Media press release issued on Friday. ?Judge?s order does not require Symantec to recall product?, reads a Symantec press release fired a few hours later.
Both releases contain totally opposing interpretations of the seven paragraph court order. Symantec?s press release even goes as far as to state, contrary to the apparent facts, that the judge ?denied a request by Cyber Media to force Symantec to recall Norton Uninstall Deluxe.?
The wording of the court order appears to leave at least some room for two contradictory explanations.
The first paragraph of the order first states, seemingly unambigiusously: ?Defendants ? are prohibited from ? selling, licensing, leasing, transferring, distributing, reproducing, manufacturing or advertising any version of Norton Uninstall Deluxe, or any other works derived therefrom.?
But though the first paragraph clearly reads ?any? version of Norton Uninstall Deluxe, the fifth paragraph rather surprisingly contradicts this, saying the order does not apply to ?any version of Norton Uninstall Deluxe ? which does not infringe Plaintiff?s copyright ??. This might be taken to refer to the new, clean room NUD release.
In this interpretation, the court order only applies to previous versions of the software, not to the currently shipping release, and thus the order has no practical effect. That certainly appears to be the way Symantec?s legal advisers are interpreting this.
The judge was informed by Symantec that it had developed a clean room version. But the judge in his court order said a Symantec brief on this issue ? and Cyber Media?s response to it ? were received after the close of argument in this matter. For that reason, the court declined to consider these briefs. ?The court expresses no opinion whatsoever as to the adequacy of Symantec?s clean room efforts to date?, a foot note to the order reads.
Jim Tolonen said that an examination of the sourcecode will soon reveal the truth about the ?clean room? version. ?We will soon get to the bottom of this?, he said.
No date has been set for the start of the trial between Symantec and Cyber Media. A long drawn out court battle appears likely.
The preliminary injuction ? in whatever interpretation - only applies in the US, so does not affect overseas markets.
In July, Cyber Media agreed to be acquired by Network Associates, adding an extra layer of complexity to the case.
Symantec and Network Associates are already involved in a separate ? but strikingly similar ? case: last year, Symantec accused its competitor McAfee (now Network Associates) of infringing copyrights for its Norton Crash Guard product.
CyberMedia has been in financial difficulties, with plummeting sales. The company lost $11.9 million on revenues of a mere $5.9 million for its June quarter. Despite this, Network Associates is offering $9.5 for every CyberMedia share, valuing the company at about $120 million.
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