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Palm Computing awarded milestone patent

Palm Computing receives the six millionth U.S. patent in a special ceremony, emblematic of Silicon Valley's increasing emphasis on protecting its intellectual property.

Palm Computing will receive the six millionth U.S. patent in a Washington ceremony today, in recognition of the company's HotSync technology.

3Com's technology to synchronize information stored on Palm handheld devices with users' desktop and notebook computers will be formally granted the patent by officials from the Commerce Department and the Patent and Trademark Office, said sources close to the company. Palm, which is expected to spin off from 3Com as a public company sometime next February, recently expanded the HotSync concept to allow corporate employees to synchronize their devices with databases of corporate information.

More than a fortuitous event for 3Com, the milestone patent reflects Silicon Valley's increasing emphasis on protecting its intellectual property in the face of faster-than-ever product development cycles, piracy and technology infringement lawsuits.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm declined to comment, citing the quiet period mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission preceding any initial public offering.

The initial HotSync technology was developed by Palm co-founder Jeff Hawkins, who is expected to participate in the event. Hawkins left Palm last year along with co-founder Donna Dubinsky to start Handspring, which recently launched its first product, the Visor, based upon the Palm design and software.

Along with Hawkins and the sundry "high level" government officials, Palm president Alan Kessler will be in attendance. Recently named Palm CEO Carl Yankowski will not be there, sources say, since he doesn't officially start until Dec. 13.

Palm Computing makes the popular Palm handheld devices, which currently account for almost three-fourths of all digital organizers sold. Initially designed to organize contacts, calendars and to-do lists, devices of this type have become the focus of attention as a potentially important way to access Internet and corporate information via wireless communication technologies.