Symantec wrings cash from Clearswift over patent

Antivirus software company Symantec paid US$62.5 million last year to acquire a controversial patent for scanning data. A settlement announced Friday with Clearswift indicates that the company isn't going to be shy about exercising its new ownership rights.

In a statement, Symantec said that it reached a settlement with Clearswift in a case involving Symantec's U.S. Patent No. 5,319,776, which covers computer hardware or software that scans data in transit between two 'mediums.' The two companies did not disclose the terms of the settlement, but it granted Clearswift a nonexclusive patent license for its security products.

Clearswift, of Theale, U.K., makes e-mail and Web communications security products including MIMEsweeper. The company had been involved in litigation over the patent with its previous owner, Hilgraeve Inc., makers of HyperTerminal and the HyperGuard antivirus technology.

Symantec inherited the case against Clearswift when it purchased the patent in August 2003 from Hilgraeve. Symantec purchased the patent after losing a protracted legal battle with Hilgraeve over its use of the patented process, dating back to 1997.

Symantec competitor McAfee, now Network Associates Inc., was sued at the same time as Symantec, but settled with Hilgraeve over the same issue in 2001, also for an undisclosed sum.

The settlement Friday resolves all litigation between Symantec and Clearswift, Symantec said.

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