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Iomega sues Nomai, again

The charges are the latest salvo in an ongoing battle, which thus far has been fought in Western Europe, over 100MB diskettes.

Iomega today moved again to stop would-be competitor Nomai from selling 100MB diskettes compatible with Iomega's high-capacity storage products.

In a Paris court, Iomega charged Nomai with unfair competition, parasitism, and violations of Iomega's copyrights, disk design patent, and trademarks.

The charges are the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between the companies, which thus far has been fought in Western Europe. Iomega this year has obtained two prior injunctions against Nomai (a French company with a Japanese name, pronounced "no-my"), one in Paris and one in Hanover, Germany.

The Hanover court dissolved Iomega's German injunction, according to Nomai lawyer Jeff Kingston.

In seeking the Paris injunction, Iomega had claimed patent infringement, copyright infringement, and trademark infringement on the European version of the 100MB storage disk product. Earlier this month, Iomega lost on the first two counts and won on a "trade dress" trademark count that Kingston said Nomai resolved by altering the shape of the cartridge.

Nomai went to market with the altered cartridges earlier this month, precipitating today's legal action by Iomega.

"I guess this is going to be their attempt to get a second bite of the apple," said Kingston, who had not yet seen the suit. "I don't see how they can make a claim that has any substance. It sounds like what they brought before the court and lost already."

Kingston expressed optimism that the Paris court would rule again in Nomai's favor.

"In Europe you can file for an injunction and then take another whack at it with the suit. But the result you get in the injunction is typically the result that you get in the suit."

Iomega general counsel Laurie Keating promised to continue to fight Nomai. "We made very significant investment in developing the technology of the Zip drive and cartridge system, and in developing the market for the product," she said. "I think we have strong intellectual property rights in the product we created, and are committed to enforcing our intellectual property rights around the world.

Iomega has cartridge cobranding partnerships with Fuji, Sony, and TDK, but Iomega both makes those cartridges and profits from their sale. Nomai is the first company to sell Zip-compatible cartridges independently.

The legal sparring between Nomai and Iomega has an ironic precedent: SyQuest sued both companies several years ago for coproducing a SyQuest-compatible cartridge. That suit concluded with a licensing agreement in 1994.

But Nomai's legal troubles with SyQuest are not over. SyQuest filed suit against the French company in January for patent infringement in regard to its SyQuest-compatible cartridges, with the exception of the 44MB and 88MB products covered in the 1994 licensing agreement. The litigation is in the early stages, and the parties have been in discussion, according to SyQuest general counsel Tom Tokos.

Iomega today also filed a second complaint in Paris, charging Nomai with infringing on several of Iomega's pending European patents. The complaint had to be filed separately because a court date can only be granted once those patents are granted.