McAfee, Symantec sued by HyperTerminal maker

Anti-virus software makers McAfee Associates Inc. and Symantec Corp., normally fierce rivals, have found themselves on the same side of a legal flap over a patent held by a little-known software maker, Hilgraeve Inc.

Hilgraeve, the Monroe, Mich.-based developer of the HyperTerminal program that comes bundled with Windows 95 and Windows NT, alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that both companies infringed upon its patent for in-transit anti-virus detection technology.

Research underlying the patent dates back to 1989 and Hilgraeve received the patent in 1994, company officials said. The patent covers the technology behind Hilgraeve's HyperGuard utility for searching for virus signatures in data while it is in transit over networks. The tool is aimed at inhibiting virus infection from files downloaded over the Internet.

According to the lawsuit, Hilgraeve offered to license HyperGuard technology to third parties, including McAfee and Symantec, last year. IBM Corp. took the company up on the offer, but McAfee and Symantec did not, Hilgraeve officials said.

This latest lawsuit is far from the only matter concerning attorneys for the anti-virus software industry's two most contentious players. A copyright infringement suit filed by Symantec against McAfee in April and a libel suit filed shortly thereafter by McAfee against Symantec

are still far from being resolved. Symantec has alleged that McAfee stole portions of its code and used them in the McAfee VirusScan and PC Medic 97 products.

In response, McAfee filed a $1 billion libel suit against Symantec, alleging that blistering press releases issued by Symantec in the wake of the original lawsuit contained lies about the issues at stake. (Both companies are fond of putting out press releases to accuse one another of a variety of misdeeds.)

In May, anti-virus software maker Trend Micro Inc. filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the pair, alleging they infringed upon its patent on virus detection techniques for data carried over the Internet and via E-mail.