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RealTime IT News

Court Overturns Palm/3Com Patent Case

A patent lawsuit against Palm and 3Com was overturned Wednesday after a U.S. court of appeals in Washington was asked to extend the definition of "credit-card sized device" to include handheld devices and PDAs.

The case stems from a February 2000 patent lawsuit filed by McLean, Va.-based E-Pass Technologies against Palm and 3Com. A California District Court cleared the two Silicon Valley-based giants of any wrongdoing last August.

The appeal suggests that the E-pass patent (U.S. Patent No. 5,276,311) is not limited to a credit-card sized device. The Federal Circuit further held that Palm sized PDA's could literally, as well as under the doctrine of equivalents, infringe the E-pass patent.

According to the abstract, the patent covers "...an electronic multi-function card comprising a storage accommodating a plurality of individual data sets representing individual single-purpose cards, and comprising at least two display boxes in which data can be displayed by electronic activation..."

Palm (soon to be palmOne) said the appeal is a smoke screen and it fully expects to prevail in this lawsuit.

"If you look at the language of the E-pass copyright, it continually refers to devices that are "credit card" sized. Our devices are not obviously not credit card sized," Palm spokesperson Marlene Somsak said.

E-Pass said similar litigation against Microsoft and Compaq (now Hewlett-Packard <) in the U.S. District Court in Texas had been stayed pending the Federal Circuit decision. But now that the basis for the stay has expired the company said it expects to resume litigation against both the Palm/3Com and Microsoft/Compaq sometime within the next four to six weeks.

"With a view towards the vigorous enforcement and protection of its intellectual property rights, E-pass is currently undergoing a thorough evaluation of all products and processes that might be covered by its patent, now that the patent has been vindicated by the Federal Circuit in Washington," the company said in a statement.

E-pass said it would be filing the additional patent infringement actions in the not-too-distant future.