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Intermec Strikes Back -- Again

In a statement released yesterday, Everett, Wash.-based Intermec Technologies (a division of UNOVA said it is suing Symbol Technologies of Holtsville, N.Y. over six intellectual property infringements, including some related to wireless. Both companies loom large in the world of wireless data capture and barcode scanning.

Specifically, the suit says Symbol is infringing on a patent for "a coherent, integrated wireless data capture system capable of distributing data over a network; portable, battery-powered data processing devices capable of running a multi-tasking operating system; and handheld portable data capture devices with graphical user interfaces (GUI), the ability to accept handwritten information and the ability to process that information," according to Intermec's announcement.

This suit follows a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Symbol against Intermec on March 11 after talks for trading IP failed between the two companies. Symbol also stopped selling Intermec its laser scan engines at the time, saying it would be inappropriate to sell to someone it is in litigation with. Intermec calls this a breach of the supply contract between the companies.

Because the two companies had an OEM agreement for a time, they did not sue each other, but Intermec says the breach and the March 11 suit by Symbol opened the door for this week's filing in the U.S. District Court in Delaware. In fact, Intermec president Tom Miller said in the statement that his company was "anticipating this for some time; Symbol's decision will have no effect on Intermec business operations," due to existing stockpiles of what it needs.

Much of the enmity between the companies stems from a patent-infringement suit Intermec filed last June against Matrics, a company that developed Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that was later bought by Symbol.

Where this will go is anyone's guess, but Intermec says it will keep end users out of it, saying the company has "no plan to sue end users over RFID or other patented technologies it controls."

Symbol is no stranger to wireless patent lawsuits. It won $22.75 million (based on a 6 percent royalty) from Proxim in September 2003 in a suit over wireless patents, two of which it is also suing Intermec for infringing. In 2004, the two companies worked out a cross-license on some patents (while other IP was signed over completely to Symbol), and signed a mutual covenant not to sue over patent issues through at least September 2009.