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Apple ordered to face patent trial

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A US Federal judge has sided with New York-based software developer Imatec and ordered Apple to stop trying to delay the pending legal battle between the two companies. Nearly a year ago, on 13 February 1998, Imatec filed a suit against Apple alleging the company had infringed three patents it holds for device-independent colour management software. Imatec claimed Apple's ColorSync software contained its technology (see Apple, Imatec lawsuit talks collapse). Imatec is seeking $1.1 billion in damages. Apple denies the charge. It claims ColorSync, which was formally introduced in 1993, contains technologies the company had been developing and offering since 1985. Though quite why the usually highly scrupulous Apple failed to register patents of its own for these technologies isn't clear. Imatec's patents were granted in 1992, and cover the electronic adjustment of the colours of a digital image to compensate for the difference between how that image appears on a monitor and how it's printed. That's pretty much what ColorSync does, though it goes beyond the printer-monitor relationship by supporting other devices, such as scanners. Interestingly, ColorSync uses technology licensed from Heidelberg Prepress, then known as Linotype. So too does Microsoft's less well-known Image Colour Management system, though this software is not cited in the Imatec suit. Possibly it's the highly contestable nature of the case that has provoked Apple to repeatedly request the trial date be extended. In any case, a trial date has yet to be set. ®

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