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Wal-Mart, Amazon.com Reach Settlement

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Monday settled a lawsuit it filed against Amazon.com.

Also named in the suit was drugstore.com -- in which Amazon has a 40 percent stake -- Richard Dalzell, and Amazon.com backer Kleiner Perkins.

Dalzell came to Amazon.com in 1997 after serving as Wal-Mart's vice president for information systems.

The lawsuit was filed by Wal-Mart in January in a Seattle court and the parties named in the original suit filed a countersuit in March. Wal-Mart originally filed the lawsuit last October in Arkansas. Wal-Mart alleged Amazon unfairly recruited top technology executives from Wal-Mart and stole trade secrets. That case was dismissed in early 1999.

Amazon said the settlement agreement includes all defendants named in the suit and settles all claims and counter claims. No damages will be paid by any of the companies.

In Monday's action, Amazon and its drugstore.com subsidiary agreed to reassign certain ex-Wal-Mart information systems employees and vendors. Any Wal-Mart property still in the hands of former associates or vendors will be returned to the company.

"While we will not speak to the specifics of the settlement, the terms of the agreement provide us with the assurances of confidentiality we were seeking. We also make this agreement with the good faith knowledge that our computer systems and business processes are protected as all of our companies move forward," said Robert Rhoads, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and general counsel.

"The computer systems and business processes at Wal-Mart have been developed in-house by our associates over many years," Rhoads added. "We will continue to protect the proprietary systems and processes that provide Wal-Mart with a competitive advantage. We owe it to our Wal-Mart associates and shareholders to protect their interest, investment and trust as we continue to compete fairly in the global marketplace."

An Amazon.com spokesman said the company is glad to put the dispute behind it.

"Neither company has any interest or desire to obtain proprietary information or trade secrets from another company. We are glad to put this issue behind us so we can keep our focus where it belongs -- on our customers," said Bill Curry, Amazon.com's spokesperson.