A UK company claims to own a number of patents that relate to the process of downloading software and virus-protection updates over the Internet.
British Technology Group (BTG) said on Monday that it is in discussions with several companies, reportedly including Microsoft, in the hope of getting them to pay royalties.
"We have various patents that cover various ways of downloading software updates over the Web, including virus fixes and product enhancements. These cover products that are in widespread use today," a BTG spokesman said.
BTG is seeking both down-payments and future royalties from "a number of companies" which it claims have already produced products that infringe its patents. But at the time of writing the company has not divulged details of the patents in question.
BTG, which represents inventors and patent owners who want to protect and enforce their patents, won't reveal which companies it is in negotiations with. Its patents potentially cover some of the free virus update services that are available, which could become unviable to operate if royalties had to be paid to BTG.
BTG, though, played down the suggestion that computer users could be at risk because of its actions.
"I can't think of any time that BTG has brought an injunction to take a product that is on the market off the market," said the company spokesman.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Microsoft is one of the companies being pursued by BTG.
A Microsoft spokeswoman, though, wasn't immediately able to comment on the issue, saying that it "wasn't anything that she'd seen information on".