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Ruling in Palm suit blocks DaVinci sales

Palm Computing has obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting Royal from selling its DaVinci handheld, which 3Com claims was copied from the Palm operating system.

Palm Computing has obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting Royal from selling its rival DaVinci handheld device, which 3Com claims was copied from the Palm operating system.

Olivetti Office and its Royal subsidiary are prohibited from shipping, importing, exporting, or distributing the DaVinci, according to a 3Com spokesperson.

Better known for its typewriters and paper shredders, Royal introduced the $99 handheld last August as low-price alternative to 3Com's PalmPilot. The company said today it is working on developing a version of its product not affected by the injunction.

3Com's Palm Computing filed suit July 22, alleging that Olivetti and Companion Link, which markets a software developer's kit and email synchronization application for the DaVinci, infringed on Palm's copyright. Specifically, the suit alleged that some of the DaVinci operating system was lifted directly from the Palm OS.

Royal said it is investigating the charges but believes the suit only affects a small number of shareware files. Shareware software is available to the general public and is not considered proprietary.

"Royal has only recently been made aware of these allegations regarding portions of the software contained in the DaVinci Personal Digital Assistant," according to the company's prepared statement. "We take these allegations very seriously, and we are working to determine their merits."

A U.S. District Court judge yesterday granted a 3Com request for a preliminary injunction that blocked distribution of the product. Injunctions are issued when one of the parties has established potential merit in a claim and can demonstrate harm if the injunction is not imposed.

"Our big concern is protecting our copyright and our intellectual property," the 3Com spokesperson said. "We got what we wanted out of this case." Olivetti and Companion Link could not be reached for comment.

Ironically, when first introduced, the DaVinci was lauded for its similarity to the PalmPilot, including its imitation of simple-to-use features and commitment to creating a development community.

Like early Palms, the first DaVinci offered limited memory to store schedule and address book data, as well as a docking station to synchronize data with the PC. In addition to shipping Companion Link's development kit, Royal launched a Web site where software applications and updates could be downloaded.

"We've got some 4 million Palm customers, plus 17,000 Palm development partners who need to be able to depend on a stable Palm development package," the 3Com spokesperson said. "So this [injunction] helps us do that."

This April, Royal introduced the DaVinci Pro, a $149 version of the device that followed 3Com's release of the Palm V. 3Com declined to comment on why the company waited almost a year after Royal released the first DaVinci to file suit.