E-Pass resumes patent case against Palm

A US appeals court judge has overturned a ruling that handheld devices from Palm did not infringe on a patent held by E-Pass...

A US appeals court judge has overturned a ruling that handheld devices from Palm did not infringe on a patent held by E-Pass Technologies.

The court's decision allows the litigation between E-Pass and Palm, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard to resume.

The case involves a patent held by E-Pass covering a portable device that can store credit cards and documents electronically, as well as conduct transactions, said Stephen Weiss, an attorney with Moses & Singer, representing E-Pass.

E-Pass believed that personal digital assistants (PDAs) made by Palm and HP infringe upon that patent, he said.

E-Pass first filed a lawsuit against 3Com, Palm's former parent company, in February 2000.

The US District Court for the Northern District of California granted Palm's request for summary judgement in August 2002, but E-Pass appealed that decision.

The appeals court decided that the original judgment concluded that Palm devices did not infringe upon E-Pass' patent because the PDAs were larger than a credit card.

The device at issue is an "electronic multifunction card", which was described as being about the size of a standard credit card in the patent. Since PDAs are much larger than a credit card, the literal standard of patent infringement did not apply to Palm's products.

The appeals court ruled that the patent holder was only suggesting a type of electronic multifunction card, not specifying the size of the device.

Since the E-Pass patent was meant to cover an electronic device that would replace the wallet, E-Pass is now referring to the infringing devices as wallet-sized, Weiss said.

E-Pass will also resume litigation that had been stayed pending the appeals court's decision against Compaq, now a part of HP.

E-Pass is seeking damages and an injunction against Palm and HP PDAs, as well as any wallet-sized device that can store credit card numbers and make purchases.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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