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UK government to investigate ‘thief’ IBM

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Following an impassioned plea in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Patrick Nicolls, the DTI has launched an inquiry into alleged patent infringement by IBM and speech recognition company Dragon Systems. Nicolls championed the case of AllVoice, a Devon-based company which claims IBM pinched its technology while feigning interest in a licensing deal. The patented advances are currently used by IBM and Dragon Systems without any payment to AllVoice. AllVoice has lodged a complaint with the European Commission and started an infringement case in the US. Nicolls complained of the slow progress of the US case, taken out over a year ago, which has still gone no further than a preliminary hearing. Most initial hearings take only a few days. Trade minister Patricia Hewitt refused to be drawn on the exact details of the case but did say she had requested the DTI investigate whether the US was complying with international agreements on intellectual property. The voice recognition market is expected to explode in the future and is estimated to be worth over £2 billion a year already. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying it is the future of computing. Sadly, though, even with the government pressurising the US legal system, AllVoice must know it is on to a loser. If the case does get to court, compared to the might of IBM, AllVoice almost certainly can't afford to get to the end of it. It's not fair, we know, but if you pick a fight with the big boys, you're gonna get hurt. ®

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