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Novell Inc. has reached a settlement in a software copyright infringement dispute with Vicom Inc., a Los Angeles-based vertical market developer and reseller of medical billing packages.

The settlement, achieved Wednesday, was the culmination of an extensive investigation by Novell into Vicom's practices with respect to the installation of Novell's NetWare operating system software in customer sites.Vicom, in addition to paying a substantial sum to Novell in the form of damages, has agreed to audit its customer sites and replace all infringing copies of Novell's software. Novell was represented in this matter by Stephen W. Tropp, a software industry lawyer in Los Angeles, and Vicom was represented by Tobin Mills of the Los Angeles firm of Anderson, Ablon, Maseda and Lewis.

David Bradford, senior vice president and general counsel for Novell said, "While the settlement in this matter is a positive step forward, it is only one component in the extensive effort being waged worldwide by Novell to eradicate software piracy. Those who are involved in installing pirated copies of our software will continue to be vigorously prosecuted."

Vicom president Frank Swain said, "Regrettably, unauthorized copies were installed at customer sites. In the press of daily business, we didn't give this matter the consideration it clearly deserves. We regret our carelessness and have made amends.

"As software publishers ourselves, we expect our copyrights to be respected, and we should make a special effort to respect the copyrights of others. We've adopted very stringent controls in the wake of this matter. We feel that this is something every reseller should look into immediately."

David Bradford, Novell's general counsel, said, "The parties have agreed to keep the exact terms of the settlement confidential, however the amount is substantial and will be used to fund future litigation against software pirates."

Purchasers of Novell software who have questions about this issue, or who have not received manuals or original Novell diskettes, should call Novell's customer service center at 800/453-1237, ext. 3930. Another avenue for reporting instances of software piracy is the Software Publishers Association's Copyright Protection Fund. With offices in Washington, D.C., the association maintains a toll-free consumer hotline at 800/388-7478 for the purposes of reporting software piracy.