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Xerox wins Palm handwriting case

That will be several million dollars, please

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Xerox has established in court that it is the inventor of handwriting technology used in Palm devices. The next step is to establish damages which, considering the numbers of Palms sold, will run into several million dollars. And that's if the court works out the fees on a royalty basis.

Palm and majority shareholder 3Com could be in for an even bigger caning if the court rules that they wilfully infringed Xerox's intellectual property. The judiciary has the power to ratchet payments by three times as a penalty.

We feel an appeal coming on: too much is at stake for Palm and 3Com to let this decision go by without demur. As Christina Clayton, Xerox general counsel, points out, Palm will either "have to cease production of its handheld organizer or license the technology from Xerox". (Update: Palm announced on December 21 its intention to appeal.)

It may have been more politic for Palm to settle when the legal first reared its ugly head. This case has been rumbling since April 1997, when Xerox filed suit against Palm and then owner USR (in turn subsumed into 3Com). It alleged that Graffiti, Palm's handwriting system, infringed its Unistroke writing technology, patented a few months earlier in January 1997, a position now vindicated.

Xerox is the tech equivalent of the UK: good at inventing stuff, crap at translating this into proper money. The glory years of Xerox PARC, its Californian research powerhouse may be long gone - the company is in hock to the banks and has more pressing matters to consider. But there's life, and income, yet in those dusty patent drawers. ®

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