Dell faces Dutch PC maker Monday at start of jury trial

Lawyers for Dell Computer are due to appear in court Monday for the start of a jury trial in which Dell is accused of selling PCs that infringe on technology patents owned by Dutch company Tulip Computers International BV.

Tulip, based in Amersfoot, the Netherlands, filed suit against Dell in November 2000, accusing the Round Rock, Texas, company of copying a patented motherboard design and using it in Optiplex desktop PCs sold after 1997. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Tulip said at the time that the infringement covered about US$17 billion of Dell's sales over a three-year period up to the time the lawsuit was filed. The Dutch computer maker hasn't said how much it wants from Dell in royalties and damages, but has said that license fees for the type of patent in question generally amount to between 1 percent and 5 percent of the revenue they generate.

Dell denies any wrongdoing and has argued that the patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 5,594,621, is invalid and unenforceable. Its efforts to prevent the case from going to trial have been unsuccessful, however.

Tulip has declined to discuss specifics of the case publicly, although a Tulip spokeswoman confirmed that the trial was due to begin on schedule Monday. In February Tulip said the trial was expected to last for nine days.

Tulip's patent describes a PC motherboard that works with both 16-bit and 32-bit peripherals, making it useful at a time when the industry was shifting between the two standards. The expansion card slot on the motherboard was designed to improve cooling and to help PC makers build smaller desktop computers, court filings show.

The judge originally assigned to the case, Roderick R. McKelvie, resigned from the court last June, according to information on the court Web site. The case was reassigned to Judge Kent A. Jordan.

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James Niccolai

IDG News Service
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