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Proxim told to pay up in patent dispute

A judge says the wireless gear maker infringed on Symbol Technologies patents--and imposes a hefty restitution.

A court has ordered wireless gear maker Proxim to pay Symbol Technologies $26 million to end a patent infringement case.

Symbol announced on Thursday that the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware has ordered Proxim to pay Symbol approximately $23 million in damages, plus $3 million in interest, for infringing on Symbol's patents.

A jury had decided in favor of Symbol in a verdict announced Sept. 12, 2003. But the two companies still must go through a post-trial motion phase. Until the final phase of the case is completed, Proxim is under no financial obligation to pay Symbol, said Ben Gibson, a Proxim spokesman.

"We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously in this matter," he said. "And we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail."

The case is related to wireless local area networking (LAN) technology based on the 802.11 standard. The technology links laptops, PCs and other computing devices to local networks via wireless connections.

Symbol said it will attempt to execute the judgment, and it is confident that the next phase of the trial will also end its favor.

"We are pleased with this decision by the court," Peter Lieb, Symbol's general counsel, said in a statement. "We believe Symbol's intellectual property is a strategic asset of the company and this decision is another example of Symbol's superior track record in defending our intellectual property."

Symbol's lawsuit was prompted by a suit that Proxim filed back in 2001 against Symbol and several other wireless networking competitors, including Cisco Systems, 3Com, SMC Networks and Wayport. Proxim had accused Symbol and other competitors of infringing on at least three of its wireless patents.

Proxim settled cases against several other competitors, but the case against Symbol went to trial. The jury hearing Proxim's case against Symbol found that Symbol did not infringe on Proxim's patents, Lieb said.

Symbol is best known for making bar-code scanners, but its wireless LAN and mobility divisions are fueling the company's growth, say analysts. Also on Thursday, Symbol reported a sharp rise in revenue in its second-quarter earnings, driven by sales of mobile computing and wireless gear.

Revenue increased 16 percent to $432.8 million from $373.8 million a year ago. The company also said second-quarter profit jumped to $28.8 million, or 12 cents a share, from $6.6 million, or 3 cents a share, a year ago.

Shares of Symbol were selling at $12.85 in opening trading Thursday, up slightly from the previous day's closing price of $12.30.