Xerox Wins “Graffiti” Copyright Suit

The U.S. District Court in New York ruled Thursday that “Graffiti,” the handwriting recognition software used in many handheld devices, is a copy cat of technology developed by Xerox Corp. .

Judge Michael Telesca, ruled that Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm and 3Com Corp. , which use the software in their PDAs, are jointly and separately liable.

The ruling backs the 1997 lawsuit filed by Xerox. In his decision, judge Telesca said that Xerox’s Unistrokes “656 patent is valid and enforceable,” and that the “Graffiti product infringes (it).”

Unistrokes, Graffiti and other handwriting recognition technology translate the shorthand drawn by the handheld user’s stylus and convert it into more readable text.

The ruling paves the way for the damages phase of the trial. The court is expected to determine the amount of damages for past infringement of the patent and Palm’s ability to continue to use the technology. If the infringement was willful, the court can triple the amount of damages due to Xerox.

“Either Palm will have to cease production of its handheld organizer or license the technology from Xerox,” says Xerox general counsel Christina Clayton.

Neither Palm or 3Com executives were available for comment.

In April 1997, Xerox sued U.S. Robotics, later acquired by 3Com, claiming that the handwriting recognition technology marketed as Graffiti and used in Palm handheld devices infringed a Xerox patent received on Jan. 21, 1997. Stamford, Conn.-based Xerox says the technology was invented at its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) back in 1993.

Xerox case appeared to be quashed in June 2000 when a federal judge in Rochester, N.Y. dismissed the suit; the judge said the software as it appeared on Palm’s PDAs did not use the same recognition patterns as Xerox’s software did.

But Xerox won an appeal in October paving the way for this week’s trial.

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