NCR claims handheld patent, sues Palm, Handspring

NCR claims to hold two patents governing the creation and sale of handheld devices dating back to 1987, according to documents filed in US District Court in Delaware. NCR is asking the court to order Palm and Handspring to stop selling their handheld devices.

Researchers from NCR developed devices for handling and transmitting data in a manner similar to that of current handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot or the Handspring Visor, the lawsuit says.

NCR wanted to create a device allowing users to enter information for appointments, to-do lists, addresses and to execute shopping transactions -- just like handhelds that have flooded the market since then. NCR also contends that it developed the idea of using docking stations where information could be exchanged between a handheld and other machines.

Palm and Handspring should compensate NCR for damages related to past and future sales of devices that allegedly infringe on NCR patents, the lawsuit says.

NCR would say little to elaborate on the charges.

When asked whether NCR plans to extend the lawsuit to other handheld makers, company spokesman John Hourigan declined to comment.

Handspring believes the claims by NCR are without merit and it plans to work with Palm to defend itself against them, said Brian Jaquet, a company spokesman. Palm agrees. It also claims it was not approached by NCR about the patents prior to filing its suit. "Palm will defend itself vigorously," said Stephen Yu, Palm's general counsel.

Even though it claims to hold the patents, NCR did not release consumer handheld devices of its own. The company specialises in developing technology for cash registers, ATMs (automated teller machines) and other point-of-sale hardware. NCR is concentrating on increasing the amount of information available using its point-of-sale devices, Hourigan said.

James Evans in Boston contributed to this report.

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Ashlee Vance

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