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One modem suit settled; another filed

Rockwell agrees to license technology patents that Motorola said were being infringed upon. Now Motorola wants U.S. Robotics to pay up as well.

Even as Motorola (MOT) announced today a settlement with Rockwell International (ROK) over patent infringement allegations for technology such as high-speed modems, it launched a similar suit against U.S. Robotics (USRX).

The lawsuit, which was filed in 1995, alleged that Rockwell used Motorola's patented technology in its chips for V.34 modems, which transmit data at speeds of up to 33.6 kbps.

Several faster 56-kbps modem technologies include an upstream data path based on the V.34 technology. (See related story)

As part of the settlement, Rockwell will pay Motorola royalties for a license to use these patents. Terms of the royalty agreement were not disclosed.

"We had a series of meetings and negotiations and that led to a common agreement on the business issues that existed. And late last week, both companies reached a point that we could live with each other," said Bill Heimbach, corporate development director for Motorola.

But Motorola today entered a similar fight with U.S. Robotics.

"We have been negotiating for a couple of years now [with USR]. Those discussions have come to a point where we have to force a resolution. People that use the technology must still obtain a license for it. As part of that license, we have every right to expect compensation," Heimbach said.

He added that Motorola hopes to reach a quick settlement with USR, but that it's prepared to fight it out if need be.

Modems are currently designed to connect to the next-highest speed attempted, if a faster connection can't be made. That means if 56 kbps won't do the trick, 33.6- and 28.8-kbps modems--which are covered by the v.34 technology that Motorola says USR is infringing on--will kick in.

Meanwhile, Dwight Decker, president of Rockwell Semiconductor Systems, said he was pleased with the agreement. "This settlement between leaders is a positive step for the communications industry and provides a solid foundation for a strong ongoing business relationship between our two companies," Decker said in a statement.