Anyone looking for a summation of the legal controversy surrounding Doctor Disk and software manufacturer McAfee is advised by Doctor Disk CEO Guy Weller to consult a book of fairy tales. "We helped build the Australian market into McAfee's best per-capita market in the world, and simple greed has led McAfee to kill the goose that laid the golden egg," Weller said.
At the heart of the dispute is Doctor Disk's contention that it has been treated unfairly following US-based McAfee's decision to, as Weller says, "cut Doctor Disk out of the business". Weller says McAfee's appointments of The Paradigm Agency as its master agent in Australia and Tech Pacific as its master distributor made it impossible for Doctor Disk to carry on in its duties and resulted, effectively, in what he calls "an unfair dismissal".
"We had a six-year relationship with McAfee and helped them build a market for their product that was bringing in nearly $6 million a year," Weller said. "One of the most disturbing things is that it's happening in other places as well. McAfee has used its agents all around the world to construct its business and now they're trying to grab it all back. It's simple market greed."
Doctor Disk was handed further disappointment at the end of July when a Federal Court Justice ruled that "on the balance of convenience for McAfee customers, it would be in their best interest to be serviced directly by McAfee [or its appointed representative]".
Perhaps most significantly, Doctor Disk was banned from providing McAfee product upgrades. According to the court, "Doctor Disk must not represent that it is authorised by McAfee to provide technical support or upgrades". In addition, McAfee is seeking almost $1 million for royalty fees it says it is owed by Doctor Disk. No decision has been made on this claim.
According to Weller, the court's ruling doesn't bode well for McAfee customers. "The whole point of this exercise is to lower the level of support on offer from McAfee. "McAfee is of the belief that all necessary tech support for its products can be done over the telephone. When the clients actually see what's going on and what level of support is available to them from Paradigm, the whole thing will blow up in McAfee's face," he said.
"We will continue - as independent experts - to provide the same level of technical expertise and support for the remaining term of all McAfee licences that we've sold, and nobody in the world can stop us doing that," Weller said.
Paradigm Agency director David Lewis rejects the basis on which Weller makes his claims. "It is my opinion that McAfee did not fire Doctor Disk; Doctor Disk resigned. Guy Weller chose to terminate the relationship," he said. "If the relationship had been as strong as is being claimed, one wonders why McAfee would want to change it."
Over to you Mr Weller: "It makes me wild to hear it being asserted that we walked away from the relationship. The fact is we were put into an impossible position," he said.
"The litigation between Doctor Disk and McAfee is far from over."