Symantec, maker of popular (and often criticized) Norton Antivirus product, today announced that it was awarded $21 million in damages against a large network of distributors selling counterfeit Symantec software.

In a case filed in November last year, Symantec claimed that ANYI, SILI, Yee Sha, and their affiliates engaged in trademark infringement, copyright infringement, fraud, unfair competition, and false advertising. Symantec began investigating the matter in early 2004, after receiving complaints from customers who had bought the bad software which in some cases included malicious tools designed to steal sensitive information from the purchaser’s computer.

The case highlights how Symantec, like many other vendors, are increasingly becoming more aggressive in their fight against unauthorized software copying and distribution. The company claims it was losing about $500 million annually to software piracy back in 2002, but it has now reduced those losses to less than $50 million per year.