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PC-Tel sues Motorola again

This time, software modem maker PC-Tel claims violations of federal antitrust laws and unfair competition.

Software modem maker PC-Tel has fired back--for a second time--in a dispute over modem patents with Motorola, this time alleging violations of federal antitrust laws and state unfair competition laws.

In counter claims filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, PC-Tel declared that Motorola has interfered with its customers "by making false and misleading statements regarding PC-TEL and the pending litigation," the company alleged in documents filed last week.

PC-Tel, which earned $24 million in 1997 mainly on sales of its software modem technology to computer manufacturers, said it is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The new suit is the second filed in response to Motorola's patent infringement lawsuit, originally filed in September. PC-Tel has also sued Motorola for allegedly infringing on its software modem patents.

Last week, the company responded to Motorola's lawsuit, claiming that Motorola made "misrepresentations" to the patent office as well as the International Telecommunications Union in regards to the patents at issue. The ITU sets worldwide standards for communications devices and requires that technology included in the standards are made available for license at reasonable terms.

The lawsuits revolve around patents for so-called "software modems." Software-based modems use the computer's main microprocessor for computing power rather than a set of special modem chips or a separate digital signal processor (DSP).

Because fewer chips are needed, they are less expensive and easier to upgrade than traditional hardware modems--making them increasingly attractive to PC manufacturers looking for ways to decrease system cost.