Xerox wins suit against Palm, 3Com

Xerox Corp.'s long-standing patent infringement suit over Palm Inc. and 3Com Corp.'s use of its handwriting recognition reached a milestone Thursday when a U.S. District Court ruled Xerox's patent was "valid and enforceable" and that the two companies had infringed it.

The ruling ends the liability portion of the case, clearing the way for Xerox to seek damages in the next phase, Xerox said in a statement. The trial court will now determine the amount of damages to which Xerox is entitled, as well as ruling on Palm's ability to continue to use the technology.

Palm will have to either cease production of its handheld devices or license the technology from Xerox, Christina Clayton, Xerox general counsel, said in the Thursday statement.

If the court finds that Palm and 3Com, which are both separately liable, wilfully infringed the patent, the court can triple the amount of damages due to Xerox, the company said.

The lawsuit was originally filed against U.S. Robotics in 1997. Subsequently, 3Com acquired U.S. Robotics, then spun off its Palm division as Palm Inc. The suit looked set to end last year when a U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of New York dismissed it. The judge's grounds were that Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition software, a part of the Palm OS that runs on handheld devices, does not use the same recognition patterns as does Xerox's technology. Two months ago, however, an appeals court threw out the judge's ruling, saying the judge had not understood the technology used in Graffiti.

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