Xerox suit against 3Com over "Graffiti" moves forward

Xerox wins a ruling that lets the world's biggest copier maker pursue 3Com in court on claims it infringed on a handwriting-recognition software patent used in Palm electronic organizers.

STAMFORD, Conn.-- Xerox won a ruling that lets the world's biggest copier maker pursue 3Com in court on claims it infringed on a handwriting- recognition software patent used in Palm electronic organizers.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office confirmed Xerox's patent Dec. 16, prompting both companies to ask a federal judge to lift a June order suspending the suit, 3Com said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Xerox sued U.S. Robotics, now owned by 3Com, in 1997 in U.S. District Court in Rochester, New York, saying it invented the recognition technology in 1993.

Xerox Chief Executive Rick Thoman is moving aggressively to defend intellectual property at a company known for such missteps as giving away technology for the computer mouse. The suit may raise problems for 3Com's Palm unit, as the leading maker of hand-held electronic organizers prepares to sell shares to the public. "Xerox is encouraged by the recent decision by the U.S. Patent office and will continue to plead our case in court,'' said Xerox spokeswoman Christa Carone, who declined to comment further on the suit.

A 3Com representative wasn't immediately available for comment.

The technology allows users to learn a simple series of shorthand strokes and enter data such as names and addresses into their Pilot with ease. In a December SEC filing, Palm said it would assume responsibility and hold 3Com "harmless'' for any damages or losses resulting from the Xerox suit.

Palm also said in the filing that a possible outcome of the suit might be payment of a license fee to use the software.

Palm calls its software "Graffiti.'' Xerox claims U.S. Robotics swiped it after reading about the "Unistrokes'' technology that Xerox invented at its Palo Alto Research Center in 1993 and patented in 1997.

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