Pitney pushes Net postage meters

Pitney Bowes is moving to license its computer-based postage metering patents to vendors of digital mailing services.

Pitney Bowes, which dominates the market for postage meters in the physical world, is moving to license its computer-based postage metering patents to vendors of digital mailing services.

Pitney's push is an effort to tap a rapidly growing digital postage metering market in which businesses hope to rely on downloaded stamps for all their mailing needs.

The company said it has been active in developing computer generated metering technology for many years. "Many of our original metering-related patents applications were filed in the 1980s," Pitney Bowes' general counsel Melvin Scolnick said in a statement. "These early patents were actually only the beginning of many significant patent filings subsequently made in PC postage-related technology."

Pitney spokeswoman Sheryl Battles said the company was in discussions with E-Stamp and Stamp Master, both privately held companies, to license Pitney's patented technology.

Other patents Pitney's holds include cryptographic "signatures" on data; verification systems to authenticate sender information; and methods to maintain the security and records of the amount of postage printed.

Pitney and other companies may have to play catch-up with E-Stamp, which has created a system for buying postage stamps over the Internet and was the first to make it through the U.S. Post Office's arduous screening process. E-Stamp's technology allows users to download postage from the Net and print it directly onto envelopes using software, a small piece of hardware, and a standard printer.

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