Judge: Handheld makers didn’t violate patent

Saturday July 13, 2002

SAN JOSE — A federal judge has rejected a claim from NCR Corp. that Palm Inc. and Handspring Inc. violated its patents in their handheld computers. 

NCR, a Dayton, Ohio-based company best known as a maker of cash registers and ATM machines, doesn’t currently sell a handheld computer but claimed in a lawsuit filed in March 2001 that it had patented such a device to work with a docking station in 1987. 

Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge of the U.S. District Court in Delaware granted summary judgment Thursday in favor of Palm and Handspring, saying in a 67-page opinion that neither company infringed on NCR’s patents, the companies involved said Friday. 

NCR indicated it would appeal the court’s decision. 

“While we are disappointed with the present ruling, we are confident we will prevail in this case,” the company said in a statement. 

Palm, based in Santa Clara, and Handspring, based in Mountain View, vowed to keep fighting similar suits. 

“Palm respects valid patents and has taken licenses where appropriate,” said Eric Benhamou, Palm’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We refuse to succumb to intimidation by companies that use charges of patent infringement to bully others.” 

Added Handspring chief executive Donna Dubinsky: “We will always aggressively fight meritless lawsuits, such as this one brought by NCR.” 

Palm is the leading maker of personal digital assistants, and Handspring makes PDAs using Palm’s operating system. The electronic devices, as well as those of other rivals, have gained popularity since the original Palm Pilot debuted in 1996. Sales have been sluggish, however, since the economic downturn last year.