Symantec Sues Microsoft

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Symantec has sued Microsoft, claiming that it is violating a 1996 agreement with Veritas, which Symantec bought last year for $10.2 billion.

The 1996 agreement had Microsoft license the Veritas volume management technology in Windows NT, but said Microsoft could not develop products competing with the Veritas software.

In 2004, Veritas claimed that Windows Vista features in an early Longhorn build violated the agreement. Microsoft’s agreement also allowed the company to buy out rights to the code and intellectual property it had been licensing, which it did.

Microsoft also filed some patents that related to storage management, which Symantec claims are patents of technologies invented by Veritas.

So, it seems the dispute comes down to:

  • Does the Vista technology violate the agreement by competing with Veritas products
  • Did Microsoft’s buy out allow it to release competing products? Did the buy out effectively end the contractual relationship, or just widen it?
  • Are Microsoft’s patents actually owned by Veritas/Symantec?

Microsoft’s recent moves into security software threaten Symantec’s core businesses, so it is understable that they would try to fight back using Veritas’ assets. The claim seems without merit if Microsoft truly owns the technology it bought out, but that question will come down to the precise wording of the original agreement.

Regardless of all that, the first claim has to be proved, and Microsoft has a lot of experience claiming that Windows features are not considered competing products. They have lost a lot in trials that hinged on that arguement, but they should be able to block Symantec’s request for a court order to stop the release of Windows Vista.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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