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12/20/2006
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Victory In Hand, Visto Plans To Defend Its Wireless E-Mail Patents

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ordered Seven Networks to pay Visto $7.7 million in damages.

Visto, which sells wireless e-mail technology to cellular carriers, won a final judgment in its patent infringement lawsuit against Seven Networks, another wireless e-mail provider. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on Wednesday ordered Seven to pay Visto $7.7 million in damages and stayed an injunction against Seven that's awaiting appeal.

In April, Seven was found guilty of violating three separate Visto patents and a federal court initially ordered it to pay Visto $3.6 million in damages for patent infringement. That same day, Visto attorneys filed a lawsuit against RIM, the provider of the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail device and service, claiming it infringed on four of its patents, three of which are identical to those in Visto's lawsuit against Seven.

Visto is convinced that Seven and RIM are not the only ones to infringe on its patents. Visto sued other companies offering wireless e-mail services on smartphones, including Microsoft and Good Technology. RIM says it's been monitoring Visto's litigation against these companies and believes Visto's patents are invalid.

The ruling in the Visto-Seven case is likely to raise concerns among Seven customers that use its wireless e-mail service on popular smartphones like the Palm Treo, as well as those from Nokia and Motorola. If Visto wins a permanent injunction against Seven, then Seven's service could be terminated. But "it won't get to that," says Harvey Anderson, Seven's senior VP of corporate affairs and general counsel, "since the injunction was stayed and has no effect until the appeals process is complete."

No new developments are expected in this case until early 2008 when the appeals process is due to be completed. Seven and its customers can continue to use and sell all of Seven's products, Anderson says.

Seven says it also plans to take Visto to court next year for infringing on patents that it claims pre-date Visto's patents.

Patent infringement lawsuits have become common in the wireless industry, mostly resulting from companies trying to stay afloat in this highly competitive industry.

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