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Macromedia Countersues Adobe

A month and a half after Adobe Systems Inc. sued it for patent infringement, Macromedia Inc. Wednesday fired back at its assailant in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Macromedia filed counterclaims for the infringement of several Macromedia patents. This action was taken in direct response to Adobe's lawsuit against Macromedia for allegedly infringing two Adobe patents. Macromedia said the claims made in the Adobe lawsuit are baseless.

Specifically, Macromedia counterclaimed against Adobe for infringing three Macromedia patents: U.S. Patent No. 5,467,443 relates to changing blended elements and automatic re-blending of elements and is infringed by its Adobe Illustrator product. U.S. Patents Nos. 5,151,998 and 5,204,969 relate to visually displaying and editing sound waveforms and are infringed by its Adobe Premiere product.

Macromedia Chairman and CEO Rob Burgess told InternetNews.com Wednesday afternoon that the whole courtroom scenario was "regrettable" and that his firm was reluctant to countersue for a number of reasons. He said it was taxing in money and resources and that his firm wished it could just continue serving customers instead of dealing with the legal issues Adobe brought to the table.

"We're were good competitors and now they moved it away from the customers and into the courtroom," Burgess said. "It's not the way we do business."

Burgess also said he was aware of the patent infringements his firm is countersuing Adobe for in 1996, but said he hadn't planned on doing anything about it -- that is, until Adobe sued. Burgess said issues of "prior art," a clause which says a patent may be invalid when something published that is similar exists that predates the patent, flooded in to Macromedia from all over the world concerning certain aspects of Adobe's Xcel product.

Burgess said he thought the case might play out over a few years.

Adobe did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

The turbulence began in August when Adobe claimed Macromedia allegedly infringed on U.S. Patent No. 5,546,528 by tabbed palette features of certain Macromedia products. The tabbed palette is Adobe's user interface for displaying multiple sets of information on the computer screen.

On September 18, Adobe amended its complaint to include an additional claim of infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,084,597 by image rendering features of Macromedia Dreamweaver and Macromedia Flash products.

The seeds of discontent seem to have been sown in 1996, when Adobe first requested that Macromedia stop creating products that Adobe deemed were too similar to its own. Claiming the patent was invalid and unenforceable, Macromedia told them as much in 1996, and readvised them when they last contacted Macromedia in May, 1999.

However, Adobe's President Bruce Chizen said in August his firm had asked its competitor several times of the infringement.

"Adobe will not be the R&D department for its competitors," Chizen said in a statement issued in August. "Our patent and other aspects of our user interface are key to the user experience and functionality of our products; they are essential to differentiate our products and brand from others."

While Macromedia insisted Adobe's patent is invalid under the "prior art" clause, Adobe spokesperson Linda White said all relevant prior art was disclosed.

White also said Adobe waited as long as it could before filing suit, but that her company warned Macromedia several times between 1996 and 2000 that the smaller firm was infringing by copying image editing products such as X-RES and applications such as FreeHand. White said Adobe is confident the court will find in its favor.

"We wouldn't have filed if we didn't think we could win," White said last month. "It's costly and distracting to go