"When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my gun," said some old Nazi, and I feel pretty much the same about litigation (albeit in a more British way of feeling somewhat miffed rather than provoked into drawing arms).

The news that Darl McBride has been "terminated" by SCO won't break too many hearts, you suspect, because he was at the heart of the Californian software's bizarre effort to build revenue through the courts rather than via R&D. And, whatever the joys some see in legal statute, precedent, tort, IPR, prior art, Donoghue v Stevenson and the man on the Clapham omnibus, turning to the law is surely an option best left as a final, final alternative. In technology it is a pest that often diverts rightful rewards away from innovators and maintains the status quo in order to reward powerful businesses -- or at least their lawyers.

It's as well to be suspicous of the litigious and keeping a watchful eye on the progress of legal cases requires the patience of a billiards player awaiting a visit to the table. As with Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Dickens' Bleak House, the cases can appear interminable and perhaps, in the recent examples of actions against Microsoft and Intel, they really are.

Very often the companies involved seem to be playing pantomime characters with much high-faluting impersonations of outrage and shock; a cynic might be suspicious of their motives. Even when the cases are settled, there is no guarantee justice has been done or that the penalties applied represent an accurate price to pay for wrongdoing.

Of course, the law must be there, just as there must be politicians, accountants and even, in the very bullseye of Dante's Inferno, journalists. But the wise man steers a course well away from the hammer and gavel, wigs and dusty volumes, and raises a sceptical eyebrow at those addicted to its squalid dramas.