Something litigious is in the air, and now Trend Micro Inc has sued its two largest competitors, McAfee Associates Inc and Symantec Corp, over patents issued on April 22 covering computer virus detection techniques used for data carried over the Internet, electronic mail and groupware. Trend, which filed its complaints at the US District Court for Northern California, is using the patented technology in its InterScan VirusWall product and has licensed it to other vendors. Trend says the offending products are McAfee’s WebShield and GroupShield, and Symantec’s Norton Antivirus for Internet Email Gateways, and it seeks damages (treble damages for any willful infringement), and a permanent injunction to stop the products going on sale. Just what becomes of the major legal disputes can be seen from IBM Corp’s suits against Fujitsu Ltd and Hitachi Ltd in the early 1980s, when IBM accused the two Japanese of illegally copying its mainframe operating system code for use on IBMulators. Hitachi executives were even arrested by the FBI in 1982 over the accusations. Hitachi settled up for an undisclosed amount in 1983, but Fujitsu held out until 1988, when it was forced by an arbitration panel to pay IBM $800m to cover past use of intellectual property. It also won the right to have access to IBM’s code for a fee of up to $51m per year, which it did until 1993. Since then it has decided not to take up that option, and last week the panel was finally disbanded. Perhaps a more apposite parallel however, is the case of Rodime Plc, a Scottish company which won patents for the 3.5 disk drive way back in 1987, and immediately began suing all of its competitors: despite the promise of a huge windfall of cash, Rodime declined as its technology was superceded, and the company, reduced to a few lawyers in Edinburgh, was, we understand but can’t confirm, wound up just a few weeks ago.