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Novell cleared in patent case

The company says it has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a long-running patent infringement case brought by Action Technologies.

Novell said today that it has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a long-running patent infringement case brought by Action Technologies.

An appellate court judge in California has affirmed an earlier opinion that cleared Novell in a lawsuit filed in 1995 by Action, which alleged that Novell's GroupWise product infringed on one of its patents. Both courts decided that the patent was invalid.

Action Technologies could not be reached for comment. The latest ruling came in an appeal Action filed after losing its first case last year.

Action received a patent June 1, 1993 for a technology to be bundled in products including messaging systems, calendars, and Internet technologies. The company said that this technology is at the core of its patent portfolio.

Throughout the case, Novell has said Action's patent is for public domain technology, which would make it invalid.

Novell executives defended their actions by saying that what ATI said they had violated, the Internet also violates. Products from just about every company violates the patent, based on the broad criteria given, they said in December, 1996.

Third-party inventions that predate patents are known under the law as "prior art," a status that can invalidate patents. With this designation, Novell's patents can theoretically supersede Action's patents in the event that they are similar or cover similar processes.

"Patent litigation can be very expensive, but it is important that software companies take a strong stance to contest patent infringement claims where prior art references exist," David Bradford, senior vice president and general counsel for Novell, said in a statement. "In this case where substantial prior art was found, Novell was convinced that the ATI patent could be overturned."